Mothers Day (and A+ Zucchini Bread)

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When I think about it, I suppose I have a tradition of posting on Mothers Day. And I say the same thing every year--motherhood is amazing, but mothering is more so.

Joan Halifax is a hero of mine who started the Project on Being with Dying. She's a zen priest and anthropolgist, and when she's not training folks on the contemplative care of dying people, she's training the healthy on how not to be scared of death. She says,

Tibetan Buddhists say that we have all been one another's mother in a previous lifetime. Imagining every being as your mother, practice offering love equally to all whom you encounter, including strangers, creatures, and even those who have hurt you...Thinking of all beings with motherly love is a good reference point when I have fallen into automatic behavior, am feeling alienated, or am having trouble opening my heart.

I think most of us, much of the time, have "fallen into automatic behavior." Stress and obligations push us into that place so easily. We forget we have a choice, moment to moment, about what kind of people we want to be. We forget to be nurturing. And, for myself and lots of women in my world, we really forget how to let ourselves be nurtured.

I tear up when I think of all the beings throughout my life who have offered their motherly love to me. My own mother, who determined she was never going to repeat her own childhood experience of not having enough love. Emily, who makes me Easter baskets, remembers when I have stressful meetings coming up, asks me the best questions, and can handle all my emotions and opinions. Breeze, who took my kids for the night this week and made them bacon on a weekday. (They didn't want to come home.) Jackie, who modeled to me, so many years ago, how to be a feisty mother with dreams. Cristina, who pours out her motherly love on my children. Padre, my dog, who loves me with an undying love even though I yell at him to get out of the kitchen. 

Though I'll never master it, I'm into tenderness lately. This life is far too short to withhold from one another. I especially ache for all the women in my life and in the world who want to be mothers and it hasn't happened yet. Or will never happen. I can't say anything to make that better, but I do know that love isn't scarce. As my pastor said this morning, there is good news everywhere. We're just telling the wrong stories.

So Happy Mothering Day. May you experience someone being tender toward you today.

A+ Zucchini Bread
I haven't made zucchini bread in a long time, and boy was this good. We snacked off it all weekend. It's a combo of several different recipes, and would work well with a gluten-free flour blend if that's your thing. Makes two loaves.

1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. soda
3 Tb. poppy seeds
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. brown sugar
2 1/2 c. white sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 c. water
2 c. grated zucchini
1 c. shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
1 c. toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 c. candied ginger, coarsely chopped
1 Tb. lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350. Grease two bread pans.

Combine flour, salt, nutmeg, soda, poppy seeds, and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine oil, eggs, water, and zucchini. Mix wet ingredients into dry, then add coconut, walnuts, ginger, and zest. Bake in 2 pans until tester comes out clean, 45-60 minutes. 

Yogurt Lemon Loaf with Rosemary and Walnuts

yogurt lemon loaf

It's Teacher Appreciation Week at Roosevelt Elementary, which means I'm doing some baking. Happily.

Sending my children off each morning to spend their day absorbing other people's values, playing with other people's children, and learning someone else's curriculum could be terrifying. Except it's not.

The public school down the hill from us is an amazing place on the planet. The teachers and staff really like another another, emotional intelligence is highlighted just as much as any other skill, and I usually hear staff and students laughing when I'm there. Things are serious and structured when they need to be, and playful and silly as often as possible. There's artwork everywhere, and little groups doing work around every corner--tutorials, gentle disciplinary conversations, peacemaking.

I always say we wake up in the morning with a certain amount of energy. We can waste it being touchy, annoyed, or feeling like outsiders, or we can make a choice to be engaged and present. Teaching is hard. And it doesn't pay very much. And you're ON for hours at a time in front of an audience that doesn't say thank you or even do you the courtesy of sitting still! But these Roosevelt folks? They spend their energy being present. And it shows in how my children are developing. That's pretty powerful.

This recipe is for you, Shelly. You light up that front office like fireworks, and I don't think you can imagine how much light and goodness you spread. Thank you.

Yogurt Lemon Loaf with Rosemary and Walnuts
Adapted from Melissa Clark's recipe for Chocolate Chip Pecan Loaf Cake, which I've adapted a million times. I adore her, her food sensibilities, her great writing, and the fact that this recipe just requires a spoon and a mixing bowl!

For cake:
1 c. sugar
2/3 c. plain yogurt
3 large eggs
1 3/4 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
10 Tb. unsalted butter, melted
1 c. toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1-2 Tb. chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tb. lemon zest 

For glaze:
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1 c. powedered sugar
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 Tb. soft butter 

Butter and flour a 9x5 loaf pan and preheat the oven to 350.

Using a whisk, comgine the sugar and yogurt. Add eggs, one at a time, and whisk until completely combined.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry mixture into the wet mixture, then fold in the melted butter a little at a time. Fold in walnuts, rosemary, and zest.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the cake is golden and tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

While cake is cooling, make glaze. Combine lemon juice and powdered sugar in a bowl, and microwave for 20 seconds. Take out of the microwave and add butter and lemon zest, whisking until mixture is glossy. Pour over the cake while it's still in the pan. Let cool for another 10-15 minutes before turning it out to cool to room temperature before slicing.