“Miss Julie, did you bring us prizes?”
“Um, no — your prize is getting to spend time with me, duh! Did you bring me prizes?”
This was clearly not the response Sophia had been hoping for. She poked out her lip in a faux pout before running off with Caroline to play airplanes.
Thus began another fun night of Vacation Bible School with my sweet group of third graders. Vacation Bible School is a week of activities, Bible stories, and snacks (one of their favorite parts!) for elementary school kids. You might remember that I look forward to it each year because God always does something special. This year was no exception.
Three years ago, when I started helping with VBS, God taught me that I was there to listen to children. Before that lesson, I’m sure I thought I was there to use my awesome teaching skillz: managing the kids, making them walk in a straight line, dictating when bathroom breaks were and how much silliness was appropriate. It’s always easy for me to zoom straight into teacher mode, assuming that because that’s what I’m good at, that’s how God wants to use me.
Have you ever done that? Assumed you knew just what God wanted from you and in doing so, jumped the gun?
But thankfully at that VBS three years ago, God caught me before I jumped in. Since then, I go into VBS every year with an open heart and a humble spirit. When we pray before we begin the activities each night, I make a point to “turn off” my teacher brain — no looking around to catch kids whispering during prayers, no worrying about who’s poking whom — and surrender to God in prayer.
This year, my sweet group made it easy to relax, listen, and care. Every child had something unique and special about them. One went to boy scout camp each day and always had a fun hiking story. He loved the Percy Jackson novels and was immensely proud of his older brother, who by all accounts must have hung the moon. Another little boy was a dedicated dancer during our music class, watching and copying every move diligently. One little boy didn’t think he’d like VBS, but ended up enjoying every night and dancing even though he didn’t want to! He assured me that his friend had a girlfriend, a charge which the other little boy vehemently denied: “No, I don’t like her anymore!” Wonder if she knows that yet!
Two of my little girls were amazing helpers — and were also the winners of the airplane relay race one night! Another little girl wore a smile every single day. Two of the kids brought friends with them to VBS and were great hosts, explaining each activity. One little boy had a birthday during VBS, prompting us all to sing a boisterous version of “Happy Birthday to You” at the top of our lungs. Each child was a treat.
Including Anthony. Remember how I’d jokingly asked Sophia if she’d brought a prize for me? Well, Anthony really did bring prizes for me!
The second night he surprised me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers that his Grandma revealed he had arranged himself (that’s talent!) I was tickled to get them, but just imagine my surprise when he showed up on Night 3 with another treat. This time it was gluten-free zucchini bread that he had helped bake. My co-teachers and I scarfed down our delicious slice before the night was over, fussing over how moist and amazing it was. Night 5 found me in possession of a delectable iced sugar cookie and a photo of Anthony making it.
Don’t worry, I didn’t forget Night 4. On Night 4, Anthony gave me another gift, but he also gave you one: he gave us the recipe for the amazing zucchini bread! I gave him a Willow Bird Baking card and told him to watch this space to see his bread in lights. And here it is!
This bread is moist, cinnamony, and nutty. And don’t worry that putting veggies in your bread will harm its flavor: it’s 100% delicious. I baked up a couple of loaves on Saturday and served them at a party with softened butter and a bowl of orange marmalade. They were met with praise by all who tasted. Thanks, Anthony and Grandma, for such a treat.
Let’s give Anthony a gift — let’s give him some wisdom. Leave your best piece of advice for Anthony in the comments. He’s in third grade — what should he keep in mind for school, family, and life?
One year ago: School’s IN for Summer Picnic
Two years ago: Homemade Buttery Croissants and Pains-au-Chocolats
Anthony’s Cinnamon & Walnut Zucchini Bread
Recipe by: Adapted from Lisa and family
Yield: 2 loaves
This recipe produces two moist, hearty, cinnamon-kissed loaves of quick bread perfect for slathering with soft butter and sweet orange marmalade. There’s a gluten-free adaptation included — and since I’ve tasted both versions, I can testify that they’re both fantastic. They also happen to be quick and easy to make. Enjoy!
3 cups all-purpose flour*
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini (this was about 2 zucchini for me)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
*Gluten-free substitution: You can use gluten-free baking mix (not just gluten-free flour) in place of the all-purpose flour above. Alternatively, mix 2 cups brown rice flour (or 1 cup brown rice flour and 1 cup sorghum flour), 1/2 cup potato starch (not potato flour), 1/4 cup tapioca starch, and 2 teaspoons xantham gum. This will make about 3 cups of gluten free flour mixture to substitute for the all-purpose flour above.
Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans (I use Wilton’s Cake Release.) Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.
In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Using a spoon, stir in the zucchini and walnuts.
Divide the batter between the two prepared pans. Bake for 40-60 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the middle of the loaves comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Allow the bread to cool for 20 minutes in the pan before turning it out to finish cooling on a cooling rack. Serve with soft butter and orange marmalade.
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Julie @ Willow Bird BakingJune 27, 2012 at 6:42 pm (11 years ago)
I’ll start: Anthony, you have a great sense of humor and a great attitude! Sometimes in life you will go through hard things, just like we all do, but keep that fantastic attitude and trust in Jesus — He has already conquered all the hard stuff and will help you through it when it comes! Thank you for being in my VBS class!
JeanneanJune 27, 2012 at 6:56 pm (11 years ago)
A firm belief that with Jesus’s help and a great sense of humor you can handle anything. And sponteneous gifts of flowers are always appreciated.
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingJune 27, 2012 at 7:18 pm (11 years ago)
Yes!! Spontaneous flowers always help!!
MHAJune 27, 2012 at 6:58 pm (11 years ago)
Anthony, you’ve already discovered the best wisdom I could pass along to you: sharing food is the best thing in life. Making delicious food yourself, to share with others, is a real gift. I hope you’ll never stop doing that!
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingJune 27, 2012 at 7:19 pm (11 years ago)
It is definitely an important skill to master early 🙂 Sharing food creates community, and we all need community! Thanks, MHA!
PeggyJune 27, 2012 at 7:58 pm (11 years ago)
Hi, Anthony. The zucchini bread is GREAT!! My advice for having a FANTASTIC life is to persevere (that’s a fancy word for not giving up), keep a positive attitude, and rely on God always. Thanks for sharing your recipe. 🙂
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingJune 27, 2012 at 8:45 pm (11 years ago)
Love that advice! Thanks, Peggy!
MartinrosemJune 27, 2012 at 7:58 pm (11 years ago)
Anthony, don’t tire of giving even when none of your kindness seems to find its way back to you. It might just be taking time because of passing through lots of people. 😀
Thanks for sharing too, Julie! 🙂
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingJune 27, 2012 at 7:59 pm (11 years ago)
Love that sweet advice! Thank you!
A_BoleynJune 27, 2012 at 8:22 pm (11 years ago)
Loaves like this are a great treat and so practical as you can put all kinds of things in them.
My advice to Anthony is to “Keep on learning. Keep yourself open to new experiences, new places and new people. Your life will never be dull and you’ll grow as a person and in your spiritual life as well.”
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingJune 27, 2012 at 8:45 pm (11 years ago)
YES! Keep on learning! Love it. Thank you!
Barbara @ Barbara BakesJune 28, 2012 at 12:13 am (11 years ago)
Thanks for sharing Anthony’s zucchini bread recipe. My garden will be exploding with zucchini soon and bread is my favorite way to eat it.
My advice to Anthony is to be fearless. Try new things even if they’re scary. Life can be a roller coaster ride so just hold on and have fun.
Katrina @ Warm Vanilla SugarJune 28, 2012 at 12:37 am (11 years ago)
This looks so fabulous! Yum!
Dianna @ The Kitchen PrepJune 28, 2012 at 3:08 am (11 years ago)
Anthony: You are a boy of many talents, it seems! My advice is to continue to be thoughtful and kind, not just to the people who are easy to love, but also to those who are more difficult to show kindness to. In their own way, they are reaching out for friendship and love, and I just know that a sweet person like you will show them by example how God wants us to act with one another. Can’t wait to try out this recipe!
jacquieJune 28, 2012 at 3:23 am (11 years ago)
what could i possibly give to anthony – what a gem he is. i think i should be getting advice from him. so i guess i would encourage him to continue to give both of himself and his talents whatever they may be and to cherish his grandmother for as long as he has her. and thanks for the recipe 🙂
KaelsmaJune 28, 2012 at 3:49 am (11 years ago)
My advice to you, Anthony, is the most important thing (I think) that I’ve always told my own son: Be Bold! Be Bold in your thinking, Be Bold in your dreams and Be Bold in your expectations of life. Expect to live a BIG LIFE! NO SMALL THINKING!
And I’ll also pass along a couple of things my other always taught us … When you walk – head UP, shoulders BACK, and walk like you know where you’re going (even if you don’t). But the MOST important thing is YOU MAKE YOU HAPPY – you are responsible for your own happiness and your happiness is just as important as anyone else’s.
I think you’re already on the right track! Keep up the good work!
Gillian in WalesJune 29, 2012 at 1:07 pm (11 years ago)
Yes, to Kaelsma’s advice.
Also, there is no such thing as ‘failure.’ If you don’t get the results you expected, or wanted, then look at it, learn, and try again differently. So many great inventions were only dicovered due to ‘failure’ of something else – from Columbus arriving in America to Post-it notes, to stainless steel. “It’s not failure, it’s feedback.” “If you never fail, you’re not pushing yourself.” and “It’s OK to fail.” Just keep on learning (and baking!)
DéliceJune 28, 2012 at 10:26 am (11 years ago)
Dream big. Trust yourself. Look for happiness.
And… Remember to always be extra nice to your teachers:) We’ll get you places!
KimJune 28, 2012 at 11:03 am (11 years ago)
Don’t forget to Dream… and think outside the box…
Linda StoddardJune 28, 2012 at 2:04 pm (11 years ago)
It’s nice to meet you! You already have shown two important things: kindness and sharing. Please always keep these wonderful traits with you as you go through life. They will help you all the way.
ConnieJune 28, 2012 at 2:45 pm (11 years ago)
Anthony, please remember that if you always do “your own personal best” with everything you attempt in life, you will be rewarded with the accomplishment of meeting your goal. Your goal should not to be the “best” or the “fastest” or the “smartest” (you get the idea). Your goal should be to do “your own personal best.”
I can’t wait to make zucchini bread using your Grandma’s recipe. Thank you for sharing it with Miss Julie!
KathyJune 28, 2012 at 9:00 pm (11 years ago)
Anthony – you have so been a blessing to me today. Amazing! You don’t even know me and I don’t even know Miss Julie! Young people like you are so important to all of us who are bit older. Your gifts of kindness reminds me to love like Jesus. And let me just say – you made Jesus smile. He thinks you are cool too!
My thoughts for you – always, always keep Jesus first in your heart, even when life gets tough and especially when life is easy. Let him be your best friend. And remember to ask questions – there is no dumb question, ever.
Thanks for sharing the recipe and thank you for being you. So glad you got to attend VBS and have Miss Julie as your teacher.
JuliJune 29, 2012 at 1:38 am (11 years ago)
Anthony, you strike me as a very thoughtful and creative young man. Continue to find the beauty in life and always stay true to who you are and what you love.
Jen @ Savory SimpleJune 29, 2012 at 11:54 am (11 years ago)
The bread sounds wonderful!
ChuckJune 29, 2012 at 6:56 pm (11 years ago)
Gluten free and tasty – you can’t ask for anything better than that : )
MadonnaJune 30, 2012 at 6:35 am (11 years ago)
Thank you Anthony. I will have to bookmark this one.
Are you aware of the little girl – 9 years old in Scotland (I think that is where she is from) that has started a blog called neverseconds.blogspot.com? She critiques her school lunch. She has become so popular that she was called to the office and ordered to stop. However, do to popular demand she is back. She is raising money for the children’s lunches in Malawi. Huge amounts of $. She goes by the name of Veg. It is darling.
Rebecca AnnJuly 1, 2012 at 7:36 pm (11 years ago)
I’m so excited that you love VBS! Thanks for serving and ministering last week. I know the Lord has used you in ways you don’t even realize yet.
Remember that God loves you no matter what! He is always there for you, even on the days it doesn’t feel like it. I am so glad that you were able to come to VBS.
Laura JaneliJuly 2, 2012 at 4:33 pm (11 years ago)
I love Zucchini Bread. I just made my first one the other day. I made two and put one in the freezer for a later time. This recipe looks great, and the pictures….. AMAZING! I’ll have to try this recipe next time! Thanks for sharing Julie!
emmaJuly 4, 2012 at 11:07 pm (11 years ago)
Just pulled a loaf out of the oven! Can’t wait to taste!! This is our 4th of July treat at the house and I love that the recipe was simple. Thanks for the gluten-free alternatives, I always appreciate that! 🙂
emmaJuly 5, 2012 at 12:39 am (11 years ago)
And the bread is a taste sensation!!! 🙂
LinaJuly 5, 2012 at 4:08 pm (11 years ago)
Never give up on something before you have even started it! Always remember you can do all things through Christ.
LisaJuly 14, 2012 at 11:29 pm (11 years ago)
Thank you, Miss Julie, for your heart for Jesus and children! I was brought to tears reading all the advice to Anthony. I will be sure his momma knows the posts are up so she can let him read all that great encouragement. 🙂 And I think I will be baking some more bread tomorrow: I somehow missed sseing a zucchini when I harvested a couple of days ago and now have a ginormous specimen to shred. 🙂 — Anthony’s grandma
RochelleJuly 24, 2012 at 6:34 pm (11 years ago)
Miss Julie thank you so much for sharing your story with us. And Anthony, thank you for sharing your yummy recipe with Miss Julie! I have been gluten free for a year now, and am so excited to try your yummy recipe-zucchini bread is a favorite of mine and it brings back wonderful childhood memories of me and my mom in the kitchen-I can’t wait to try this with my son!
DavidJuly 28, 2012 at 12:45 am (11 years ago)
This recipe couldn’t come at a better time then right now. My zucchini are just about ready for harvest. I will be making quite a few loaves of these for friends and family.
My zucchini are about the size of large mans forearm. So, many many loaves are on the way. Thanks for this great recipe.
ChristineAugust 27, 2012 at 1:39 pm (11 years ago)
I just came upon this recipe and will be trying it out today! My zuchinni are now coming on like crazy! This sounds sooo… good!
Anthony, my tidbit of “wisdom” to pass on is something it appears you do already! It is to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” You are clearly a “giver” and that makes for an awesome “neighbor”! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe! It is traveling to many “neighbors” because of your kind heart! 🙂
BohoBeadMommaApril 23, 2013 at 4:31 pm (10 years ago)
Mmmmm… Zucchini Bread! As a celiac, I have one suggestion for your GF flour mix though: you have to be so careful about brown rice products because of high levels of arsenic. I like coconut flour for any baked goods that are on the sweet side. Almond flour, or certified GF oat flour would work well, too. Kudos on the the combo of potato and tapioca starch – – should make the bread both soft and crunchy.
Julie RubleApril 23, 2013 at 5:53 pm (10 years ago)
Thanks for this note!
indixiesheartApril 23, 2013 at 5:50 pm (10 years ago)
to always SMILE.. No matter the circumstances.. For a smile may brighten your day, even if not a good day. An the Smile will surely make someone elses day brighter ! So many people do not want to smile.. But seeing a Happy Smile on someone.. Well its like a yawn ! You are gonna catch it, an spread it to others !
God bless you all your days ! Thanks for the recipe..
Donnie SmithApril 24, 2013 at 11:37 pm (10 years ago)
Bless you for gluten free recipes. Good ones seem hard to find. This bread sounds and looks wonderful.
I will be watching for more. Thank you.
VictoriaSeptember 21, 2013 at 5:37 am (10 years ago)
Hi Julie! I just tried this recipe yesterday with a few alterations and it turned out great! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe and I just wanted to let you know I put the recipe on my blog, linking it back to you! If you find any problems with my post or want me to take it down, please let me know and I’ll be happy to do so. 🙂 Have a wonderful day!