Back to (a New) School

Evie started her second year of pre-school last week.  A year ago I was very anxious about sending Evie to school for the first time.  Would she miss me? Who would she turn to if she got hurt? How would her view of the world change without me there to guide her?  She had been my little buddy for the past three years, and I was going to miss her.

Fortunately, we found Sprouts Academy, a wonderful school that shared our simple approach to life.  The nature-based curriculum at Sprouts reenforced our family’s focus on respect for people and the planet, but the teachers have advanced degrees in education so we knew Evie would get a good start on important skills and lessons. Some mornings she tended to the school’s vegetable garden, and other days she learned letters and numbers.  A perfect balance for our family’s values.

Evie has changed so much in the past year. She is taller, her curly hair (a little) longer, her (beautiful) face a bit more defined. But, she is also more independent and proud and mature.  I am so breathlessly proud of her. She is a very good girl.

A few things changed in our life recently, and we decided to send Evie to a different school this year.  So far she loves her new class, but it was a hard decision to say good-bye to Sprouts Academy.  It is a lovely little school in the middle of a bustling city, and Evie’s first taste of independence happened there.  To let the staff at Sprouts know how grateful we were for their hard work, I delivered a homemade  Zucchini Cake with Orange Glaze.  I love the cardamom flavor – so exotic and earthy and unexpected.  Kind of like Sprouts Academy!

Zucchini Cake with Orange Glaze (from Martha Stewart’s LIVING magazine)

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon anise seeds

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)

Coarse salt

2 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces each)

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

Orange Glaze

1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 pinches of ground cardamom (optional)

1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest, plus 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Brush a 6-cup Bundt pan with butter, and dust with flour, tapping out excess. Whisk together flour, baking powder, spices, and 1 teaspoon salt.

Grate zucchini on the large holes of a box grater, then squeeze dry in a clean kitchen towel or press in a ricer. (You will need 2 1/2 cups.)

Stir together eggs and sugar, then stir in melted butter, zucchini, and orange zest and juice. Stir in flour mixture. Transfer batter to pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour (cake will rise quite a bit over the top of the pan but should not run over). Transfer pan to a wire rack, and let cake cool for 10 minutes. Run a paring knife around edges of cake to loosen, and turn out onto wire rack. Let cool for at least 30 minutes.

Make glaze: Whisk together sugar and cardamom. Whisk in orange zest and juice, and whisk until mixture has the consistency of thick honey. If mixture is too thick, whisk in milk, 1 teaspoon at a time.

Brush several layers of orange glaze evenly over cake.


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