Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Zucchini cupcakes at the crossroads

Food, Mom, job hunt

As one unhappy reader noted, I seem to be at a crossroads. Lots of company here, where people are trying to figure out which way to head as we move from the steadier lives we thought we had into an unpredictable future.

Sometimes, it's not such a bad place to be.

Yesterday started with completing a job application for teaching in prisons. When you've been looking for work as long as I have, you find yourself exploring possibilities you might not have considered before. Sometimes, you feel a little sick applying for a job that your gut tells you isn't right. Strangely, this was not one of those. This was a "hmmm, that just might be a very good thing" application.

Then it was time to shift gears. August 6 would have been my mother's 88th birthday, so Liz and I went to visit her grave. Her ashes and Dad's are comingled under a pine tree that's easy to spot in the old Graceland Cemetery on Milwaukee's northside.

On the way, we debated what kind of cake we should make to celebrate. Mom didn't have a favorite of her own. She would have made Dad's favorite--blitz kuchen--for her own birthday or, after he was gone, whatever would please the grandchildren. Berries and whipped cream were usually involved.

But first we stopped at Sendik's on North Avenue to pick up a bouquet of daisies to leave illegally on her grave. They're biodegradable, after all. As are we, but I digress.

Heading east to 43rd Street, we stopped to peek in the windows of the old Hartter's Bakery. By now the small business fantasies were beginning to bubble. The building is charming.  Most of a commercial bakery's kitchen is still in place. There's a big flat upstairs.

We began imagining our lives as bakers. Minus the incredibly long and odd hours and the inevitable disasters along the way, of course.

The ideas kept cooking, and by the time we stopped at Ted's for lunch, a couple themes started to emerge. We'd moved from donuts to cupcakes, some of which I could describe here, others not.

Then Liz started reminiscing about my sister's caramel frosting.

And by dinner time, we had come up with these. Happy Birthday, Crossroads Day--or Anyday!

Crossroads Zucchini Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare muffin tins for 18-24 cupcakes (grease them or use paper liners).

Cupcake ingredients

3 eggs

1 1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup orange juice

grated rind of an orange

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups flour

1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup shredded zucchini (we used yellow zucchini)

1/2 cup finely shredded carrot

Caramel frosting ingredients

1/2 cup butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups confectioners' sugar (sifted)


For cupcakes. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, oil, orange juice and rind, extract. In another bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add to egg mixture, mix well. Add zucchini and carrots and mix again.

Fill prepared muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake 350 degrees 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans. Cool completely before frosting.

For frosting. Combine butter, sugar, and milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook stirring constantly for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Let cool until lukewarm. Then gradually beat in confectioner's sugar until it reaches spreading consistency (you may need less or more powdered sugar, depending on how long you cooked the caramel and how humid it is). Frost. Eat. Be happy.

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