Over Labor Day weekend, I spent an afternoon on my grandparent's farm. With spacious skies, fresh air, and endless fields of rolling grass, the prairie reminds me why I call it home. My grandparent's farm could come out of a children's book with the bright green tractors, dirt and ducks, and big red barn. A small garden near the house overflows with zucchini and cucumbers. The smell of bread and butter wafts from the windows of the house.
The farm is a place to escape from technology and learn to appreciate the simplicity of nature.
My sister and I love to go on "adventures" whenever we visit, exploring the land as it changes between seasons. This time we walked through a sunflower field, dancing between the plants as we weaved a path to the center of the field, the smell of plants and dirt filling the air. The bright green plants with brown flowers towered over our heads, the distinct yellow of the sunflowers fading as the seeds inside prepare themselves for the harvest. Twenty feet into the field, our entrance was completely obscured. The sunflowers appeared to go infinitely in every direction, an endless field of life and growth.
Taking a break to rest in the dry dirt, my sister and I stopped to sample the fruits of the flower's labor. The heads of the sunflowers were twice the size of my own, facing the ground instead of the sun from the sheer weight of a fruitful summer. It took two hands to lift the giant flowers up towards the sun; I never knew sunflowers could grow to be so unbelievably large.
We sampled the sunflower seeds, plucking them from the center of the flower, admiring the fuzz that surrounded each seed as if it was a ripe peach. The soft fuzz was a surprise for both of us, never imagining that sunflowers were or could be anything other than smooth. The seeds were pure white; the taste subtle. I felt a little closer to the earth that rested beneath my feet.
The rev of an engine drew us back out of the field. Hopping on a four-wheeler, we drove around the golden fields, the wind tangling my hair as we circled around hay bales, the sun peeking out behind the clouds to illuminate the golden grass. Dinnertime drew us back into the house and the scent of German cooking filled the air. We never fail to eat our fill.
At the end of the day, it's hard to leave the farm and go back to reality. I never get enough of the crisp air and piercing stars after a setting sun.
Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins feel like a pleasure from a simpler time. The muffins are surprisingly moist and flavorful. Even though zucchini is added to the batter, the vegetable flavor remains subtle. With the addition of cinnamon, nutmeg, and chocolate chips, the muffins are given the feel of a spice cake (with a bite of chocolate every now and then). A simple spread of butter is all these muffins need to make a lasting impression.
Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins
Yields 1 dozen muffins
1 large egg
1/2 cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
3/4 cup (150 grams) brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (about 180 grams) grated zucchini, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (120 grams) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (63 grams) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (113 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a muffin pan with baking cups.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, vegetable oil, brown sugar, and vanilla until well combined. Stir in the grated zucchini. Mix in the cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Fold in the flour, mixing until the batter becomes uniform. Stir in chocolate chips.
Fill baking cups 3/4 full and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the muffins cool briefly before eating.