WRITTEN ON July 9th, 2010 BY Meredith AND STORED IN Baking, Vegetarian, Zucchini

It must be a slow news week.  All anyone can talk about is LeBron James (am I the only person on the planet who could give a rats you-know-what where that guy ends up?). Well, LeBron and the heat wave, that is.

Here in the Northeast, temps have soared over the 100 degree mark more than once this week.  As the days melt into one another, the humidity keeps climbing, so that even a day like today, which feels positively cool compared to Tuesday, is already heavy and promises to be a July scorcher.

Growing up in Baltimore, I got very used to the humidity. The DC/Baltimore corridor is somewhat known for it’s thick summer air.  As a lifeguard at the Roland Park Pool (one of the top 10 summer jobs ever), I spent long days “working” (on my tan) in the sun.  We’d have weeks at a time with temps in the upper 90’s, with 95% humidity.  My mom would dutifully walk down the street from our house with massive water bottles full of ice, which would have melted by the time she arrived at the lifeguard stand.  She’d make sure I drank every last drop, short of actually pouring it into my mouth herself.  She had respect for the tough tasks at hand: remembering to switch chairs every half hour, making sure to re-apply sun screen, compromising with the other guards on what kind of pizza to order for dinner, sneaking out to the “pit” on breaks for a quick smoke, blowing the whistle at kids who tugged on the deep end rope, and, my personal favorite, benching the little rascals who continued to run laps around the side of the pool even when told not to. Ahhhh, a lifeguards work is never done…

Alas, I digress.  The other night it was so hot and sticky in Huntington that we decided to high tail it to the beach for dinner.  I packed a cooler with my favorite bbq chicken, this summer corn salad, and the these zucchini muffins, along with lots and lots of fresh watermelon cubes. The muffin recipe came to me courtesy of my friend Ellie, a top rate baker.  She’s modified it to include only heart healthy olive oil, no butter, and one cup of whole wheat flour.  They are delicious.  The olive oil keeps them dense and moist. She made them for me in mini-loaves.  I was pressed for baking time so I did muffins, and have been thoroughly enjoying them all week for breakfast as well (a quick note on this: the recipe says it makes 16 muffins.  I only use my grandmother’s old 1960’s muffin tins, and I got 22 out of them. Just goes to show you how grossly out of control our portion sizes have become.  But that’s a story for another time).

I picked hubby up from the steamy train platform, already drenched in sweat (poor guy was in a full suit).  Rolling down the windows as we tore through town and came out the other side, it felt like we were escaping from a very sticky prison.  As we pulled into the West Neck beach parking lot, we were kissed by the first breezes we’d felt all week, which carried with them the strong smell of brine.  Kevin made a bee-line for the water, having furiously changed in the parking lot, ever the five year old at heart. I set up camp in my chair, drinking in the cooler air and the heady perfume of summertime by the sea.  Sweet relief.

It didn’t last long.  Shortly after I’d opened my book, I noticed some kids practically playing tug-of-war with the buoy ropes that mark off the swimming area from the open water. My intrepid lifeguard’s brain kicked into gear, and I found myself reaching for my non-existent whistle…

Picnic fare

Zucchini Bread
(Makes two 9″ loaves, 16 muffins, or four mini loaves)
3 eggs
1 cup olive oil
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups zucchini, grated
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup pecans
Preheat oven to 350.
Beat eggs until foamy. Add oil, sugar, vanilla and zucchini. Mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix lightly. Pour into greased pans and lower oven temp to 325. If using 9″ loaf pans, bake for 1 hour. If using muffin pan, bake for 25 – 30 min.

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