Kid-friendly Lemony Zucchini Poppyseed Doughnut Holes + Lemon Juicy-licious Icing Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Family Meal Plan: Lemony Zucchini Poppyseed Doughnut Holes + Lemon Juicy-licious Icing

Family Meal Plan: Lemony Zucchini Poppyseed Doughnut Holes + Lemon Juicy-licious Icing

Lemony Zucchini Poppyseed Doughnut Holes + Lemon Juicy-licious Icing

by Erin Fletter
Photo by fahrwasser/Adobe Stock
prep time
35 minutes
cook time
22 minutes
6-12 servings

Fun Food Story

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Lemony Zucchini Poppyseed Doughnut Holes

For this recipe, we are making something sweet! I've read all the reasons not to eat doughnuts, the most convincing of which is, "If you eat one doughnut per day for a year without doing anything else to your diet, you will gain 30 pounds." Bummer. While I love the idea of a hand-held, deep-fried ringlet of sweetness, most doughnuts make my teeth hurt and coat the roof of my mouth with a fatty film, so I (usually) avoid them and most other overly sweet desserts. 

Although, maybe you can twist my arm with fried dough. There is some version of the doughnut in almost every world cuisine—think French beignets, Chinese youtiao, Mexican churros, American fritters, Dutch æbleskivers, African mandazi, and European crullers. Whatever you call them, great doughnuts are slightly crisp on the outside and chewy-soft in the middle. 

And how about doughnut holes? Yes, please! Of course, we could not make these without a Sticky Fingers Cooking healthy twist: lemons and zucchini! This recipe is all about the all-important vitamin C. Did you know that one cup of chopped raw zucchini has only 20 calories, meanwhile providing 35 percent of the daily value for vitamin C!? We all know that lemons are also packed with vitamin C. So, what do you think? Are you ready to mix up a batch of sweet dough and get cooking with your kids? Really, what's not to love? Can we help it that our recipes are just so gosh darn irresistible!?

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Shopping List

  • 2 lemons
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 2 eggs **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 2 T butter **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 2 C buttermilk **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 2 C all-purpose flour **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp poppy seeds
  • 1/4 C vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 C powdered sugar

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • crack :

    to break open or apart a food to get what's inside, like an egg or a coconut.

  • drizzle :

    to trickle a thin stream of a liquid ingredient, like icing or sauce, over food.

  • fold :

    to gently and slowly mix a light ingredient into a heavier ingredient so as not to lose air and to keep the mixture tender, such as incorporating whipped egg whites into a cake batter or folding blueberries into pancake batter; folding is a gentler action than mixing or whisking.

  • grate :

    to reduce food, like a carrot, to very small shreds or pieces of the same size by rubbing it on a tool with an outside surface that has holes with cutting edges (a grater).

  • juice :

    to extract or squeeze out the juice of a fruit or vegetable, like a lemon, orange, or carrot, often cutting open or peeling the fruit or veggie first to access its flesh.

  • separate eggs :

    to remove the egg yolk from the egg white by cracking an egg in the middle and using the shell halves, the palm of the hand, or a device to keep the egg yolk in place while the egg white falls into a separate bowl.

  • whisk :

    to beat or stir ingredients vigorously with a fork or whisk to mix, blend, or incorporate air.

  • zest :

    to scrape off the outer colored part of a citrus fruit's rind (skin or peel) using a metal tool with small sharp blades, such as a zester, microplane, or the small holes of a grater (avoid the "pith," the white, spongy lining of the rind that can be bitter).

Equipment Checklist

  • Oven
  • Mini muffin pan
  • Mixing bowls
  • Electric handheld mixer
  • Whisk
  • Zester (or grater with small zesting plate/side)
  • Grater
  • Skillet
  • Measuring spoons
  • Dry measuring cups
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Citrus juicer (optional)
  • Toothpicks or knife to test cake
  • Medium mixing bowl


Lemony Zucchini Poppyseed Doughnut Holes

  • 2 eggs **(for EGG ALLERGY sub 1 ripe banana)**
  • 2 C all-purpose flour **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub gluten-free/nut-free all-purpose flour)**
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 T butter **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub dairy-free/nut-free butter)**
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds
  • 2 C buttermilk **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub dairy-free/nut-free milk)**
  • 1/4 C vegetable oil

Lemon Juicy-licious Icing

  • 1 1/4 C powdered sugar
  • 2 to 3 T lemon juice (squeezed from 1 lemon)
  • 1 pinch poppy seeds

Food Allergen Substitutions

Lemony Zucchini Poppyseed Doughnut Holes

  • Egg: For 2 eggs, substitute 1 banana.
  • Gluten/Wheat: Substitute gluten-free/nut-free all-purpose flour.
  • Dairy: Substitute dairy-free/nut-free butter and dairy-free/nut-free milk.


Lemony Zucchini Poppyseed Doughnut Holes

preheat + grease

Adults, preheat the oven to 325 F. Divide 1/4 cup of vegetable oil among the wells of your mini muffin pan, about 1 teaspoon in each. Heat pan in the oven for 10 minutes before you are ready to bake the doughnut holes.

crack + separate + beat

Get 2 eggs and show kids how to crack and separate the egg whites from the egg yolks. In a clean bowl, add the egg whites and beat the egg whites with your electric mixer until they can hold a stiff peak. Set the egg white aside. Whisk the egg yolks together in a small bowl and reserve to the side. (If subbing banana, have kids mash it in a bowl).

zest + grate

Have kids wash and zest the skin of 1 lemon (only the yellow part!) with a fine grater. The zest has a ton of oils and lemony flavor. Can you smell it? Next, have kids grate 1 medium zucchini.

sauté + drain + cool

Adults, in your skillet, sauté the lemon zest and zucchini in 2 tablespoons of butter for 3 to 5 minutes or until the zucchini is soft and some of the liquid is released in the pan. Drain the excess liquid from the pan. Add 1 tablespoon of poppy seeds, stir into the zucchini mixture, and let cool.

measure + mix + squeeze

Have the kids measure and mix together 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda into a large bowl and whisk together. Add the reserved egg yolks and 2 cups buttermilk at once and beat until smooth. Have kids squeeze all of the juice from the lemon that you just zested into the batter as well (no lemon seeds please!). Add the zucchini mixture and mix into the batter. Mix well!


Have the kids gently fold the egg whites in last.

bake + cool

Adults, pull your hot muffin pans from the oven and carefully pour in about 2 tablespoons of the batter into each well. Stick the pans back in the oven and bake the doughnut holes for 15 to 17 minutes, or until they’re a pale golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of one of the center holes comes out clean. Let cool and serve with Lemon Juicy-licious Icing (see recipe)!

Lemon Juicy-licious Icing

measure + whisk

As your Lemony Zucchini Poppyseed Doughnut Holes (see recipe) or other pastries bake, it is time to make the Juicy-licious Lemon Icing! In a medium mixing bowl have kids add 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar, 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 pinch of poppy seeds. Whisk everything together.

drizzle + serve

Drizzle icing on top of the cooled doughnut holes or pastries and serve. Enjoy!

Surprise Ingredient: Lemon!

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Photo by Alena Levykin/

Hi! I'm Lemon!

“I just love the sun, don't you? That's because I'm a lemon, and we grow so much better in sun and warmth. My skin is a lovely, sunny yellow color. I'm a citrus fruit, but I'm not sweet like an orange. So if you bite into me, your mouth might pucker! But if you squeeze out my juice, then add water and sugar to it, you'll enjoy the sweet and sour taste of lemonade! My zest and juice can bring a wonderful brightness to many dishes."


  • Lemon trees are small evergreen trees thought to be native to Asia. Sometime in the first century, they came to Italy and the Mediterranean region. Although the trees were widely distributed throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean countries between the 8th and 11th centuries, they weren't cultivated to a great extent until the middle of the 1400s in Italy. Spanish explorers brought lemon seeds with them to the Americas later in the 15th century. By the 19th century, you could find lemon trees in Florida and California.
  • Today, California and Arizona produce 95 percent of the entire lemon crop in the United States.
  • During the European Renaissance, fashionable ladies used lemon juice as a way to redden their lips! Today you might find people with naturally blond or light brown hair using lemon juice, diluted with water, to lighten their hair. This method is subtle and requires exposure to sunlight to see results, so be sure to put sunscreen on your skin!
  • Lemons were once so rare that kings would give them away as gifts. 

Anatomy & Etymology

  • There are two different types of lemons—acidic and sweet. The most common acidic varieties include Eurekas and Lisbons. The acidic types are grown commercially, and the sweet types are grown mainly by home gardeners. Lemon trees bloom and produce fruit year-round. Each tree can produce up to 500 to 600 lemons annually.  
  • Lemons are hybrids of bitter or sour oranges and citrons, another type of citrus fruit.
  • Lemons are technically berries. All citrus fruits are berries!
  • Lemons are protected by a rind or peel and a lining of spongy, white tissue called the "pith." When zesting lemon peel for a recipe, you want to avoid including the pith, which is bitter. Lemon flesh is plump, full of juice, and studded with seeds.
  • Common types of lemons include Eureka, Lisbon, and Meyer. Meyer lemons have a sweeter, more floral taste and aroma. They are a combination of a lemon and a sweet orange. Eureka lemons are the most prolifically grown lemon in the world. They have pointed, tapered ends. 
  • The word "lemon" is from the Middle English "lymon," from the Old French "limon," which is from the Arabic "līmūn," a collective term for citrus fruits.

How to Pick, Buy, & Eat

  • To choose lemons with the most juice, look for those with thin peels and are heavy for their size. There are about three tablespoons of lemon juice in one lemon and about eight seeds.  
  • Lemon juice is sour by itself, but you can add lemon juice and zest from the rind to bring an acidic balance to a sweeter recipe, like cakes, cookies, and curds. It also brightens up vinaigrettes, marinades, and risottos. Lemons can be squeezed over grilled, fried, or roasted chicken, fish, or vegetables. You can make lemonade with the juice and tea from the lemon leaves.
  • Lemon juice keeps cut pears, apples, bananas, and avocados from turning brown because the acid helps keep the fruit from oxidizing.  


  • Vitamin C! The rind of the lemon has the most vitamin C. Since lemons are high in vitamin C, they have been used throughout history to prevent scurvy—a disease that causes bleeding gums, loose teeth, and aching joints. To this day, the British Navy requires ships to carry enough lemons so that every sailor can have one ounce of lemon juice a day. The demand for lemons and their scurvy-preventing properties hit a peak during the California Gold Rush of 1849. Miners were willing to pay large sums for a single lemon. As a result, lemon trees were planted in abundance throughout California. 
  • Lemon oil, extracted from lemon peel, cannot be ingested. However, when diluted and applied to a person's skin, there is evidence that it acts as an antibacterial and antifungal. Diffused in the air or added to bath water as aromatherapy, it can ease anxiety and stress, lift mood, and sharpen brain function.
  • Citrus fruits, like lemons and limes, have citric acid, which can help prevent kidney stones from forming.


History of Doughnut Holes!

Photo by Svitlana Slobodianiuk for Shutterstock
  • The name "doughnut" might refer to the nuts put in the middle of the dough ball to help cook the center, or it could come from "dough knots," a popular shape for Dutch oily cakes, sweet dough balls fried in pork fat. Today, "doughnut" and "donut" are used interchangeably.
  • Three stories tell why most doughnuts have a hole in the center, and the doughnut hole inventor in each story is the same. 
  • Story 1: In 1847, Elizabeth Gregory was known for making a unique oily cake with a hint of nutmeg and a filling of nuts. This story says that on June 22, 1847, her son, Hanson Crockett Gregory, was captaining a ship that hit a sudden storm. He impaled his mother's cake that he was eating on a spoke of the ship's wheel to free his hands. The spoke put a hole through the middle of the donut. The captain preferred the cake that way, and the doughnut hole was born.
  • Story 2: Captain Gregory didn't like nuts, so he poked them out and demanded that the ship's cook remove the nutty centers from all future doughnuts. 
  • Story 3: Around the turn of the century, Captain Gregory told the third version in a Boston Post interview. The captain didn't like the greasiness of doughnuts twisted into various shapes or the raw center of regular doughnuts. So he got the idea to punch a hole in a doughnut with the ship's tin pepper box.

Let's Learn About the United States!

Photo by JeniFoto/ (July 4th Picnic)
  • Most of the United States of America (USA) is in North America. It shares its northern border with Canada and its southern border with Mexico. It consists of 50 states, 1 federal district, 5 territories, 9 Minor Outlying Islands, and 326 Indian reservations. 
  • The country's total area is 3,796,742 square miles, globally the third largest after Russia and Canada. The US population is over 333 million, making it the third most populous country in the world, after China and India.
  • The United States of America declared itself an independent nation from Great Britain on July 4, 1776, by issuing the Declaration of Independence.
  • The Revolutionary War between the US and Great Britain was fought from 1775-1783. We only had 13 colonies at that time! On September 9, 1976, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and declared that the new nation would be called the United States. 
  • The 13 colonies became states after each ratified the constitution of the new United States, with Delaware being the first on December 7, 1787.  
  • The 13 stripes on the US flag represent those first 13 colonies, and the 50 stars represent our 50 states. The red color of the flag symbolizes hardiness and valor, white symbolizes innocence and purity, and blue symbolizes vigilance and justice.
  • Before settling in Washington DC, a federal district, the nation's capital resided in New York City and then Philadelphia for a short time. New York City is the largest city in the US and is considered its financial center. 
  • The US does not have a recognized official language! However, English is effectively the national language. 
  • The American dollar is the national currency. The nickname for a dollar, "buck," comes from colonial times when people traded goods for buckskins!
  • Because the United States is so large, there is a wide variety of climates and types of geography. The Mississippi/Missouri River, running primarily north to south, is the fourth-longest river system in the world. On the east side of the Mississippi are the Appalachian Mountains, the Adirondack Mountains, and the East Coast, next to the Atlantic Ocean. 
  • On the west side of the Mississippi are the flat Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains (or Rockies), and the West Coast, next to the Pacific Ocean, with several more mountain ranges in coastal states, such as the Sierras and the Cascades. Between the coasts and the north and south borders are several forests, lakes (including the Great Lakes), rivers, swamps, deserts, and volcanos. 
  • Several animals are unique to the US, such as the American bison (or American buffalo), the bald eagle, the California condor, the American black bear, the groundhog, the American alligator, and the pronghorn (or American antelope). 
  • The US has 63 national parks. The Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, and the Grand Canyon, with the Colorado River flowing through it, are among the most well-known and visited.
  • Cuisine in the US was influenced early on by the indigenous people of North America who lived there before Europeans arrived. They introduced beans, corn, potatoes, squash, berries, fish, turkey, venison, dried meats, and more to the new settlers. Other influences include the widely varied foods and dishes of enslaved people from Africa and immigrants from Asia, Europe, Central and South America, and the Pacific Islands. 

What's It Like to Be a Kid in the United States?

  • Education is compulsory in the US, and kids may go to a public or private school or be home-schooled. Most schools do not require students to wear uniforms, but some private schools do. The school year runs from mid-August or the beginning of September to the end of May or the middle of June.
  • Kids generally start school at about five years old in kindergarten or earlier in preschool and continue through 12th grade in high school. After that, many go on to university, community college, or technical school. 
  • Spanish, French, and German are the most popular foreign languages kids learn in US schools. 
  • Kids may participate in many different school and after-school sports, including baseball, soccer, American football, basketball, volleyball, tennis, swimming, and track and field. In grade school, kids may join in playground games like hopscotch, four-square, kickball, tetherball, jump rope, or tag.
  • There are several fun activities that American kids enjoy doing with their friends and families, such as picnicking, hiking, going to the beach or swimming, or going to children's and natural history museums, zoos and wild animal parks, amusement parks, water parks, state parks, or national parks. Popular amusement parks include Disneyland, Disney World, Legoland, Six Flags, and Universal Studios.
  • On Independence Day or the 4th of July, kids enjoy a day off from school, picnicking, and watching fireworks with their families. 
  • Thanksgiving is celebrated on the last Thursday in November when students get 2 to 5 days off school. Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa are popular December holidays, and there are 2 or 3 weeks of winter vacation. Easter is celebrated in March, April, or May, and kids enjoy a week of spring recess around that time.  
  • Barbecued hot dogs or hamburgers, watermelon, apple pie, and ice cream are popular kid foods for 4th of July celebrations. Turkey, dressing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie are traditional Thanksgiving foods. Birthday parties with cake and ice cream are very important celebrations for kids in the United States!

The Yolk's On You

"Knock, knock!"

"Who’s there?" 


"Doughnut who?"

"Doughnut forget to let me in!"

THYME for a Laugh

What did the lemon say to the cake? 

"Sour you doing?"

The Yolk's On You

Why did the lemon have no friends? 

Because she was a sour-puss!

THYME for a Laugh

What does a vegetable wear to the beach? 

A zoo-kini!

Lettuce Joke Around

Why did the doughnut go to the dentist?

He needed a filling!

The Yolk's On You

Why did the baker stop making doughnuts?

He got fed up with the hole business!

The Yolk's On You

Why did the lemon stop halfway across the road? 

He ran out of juice!

THYME for a Laugh

What do you give an injured lemon?


THYME for a Laugh

What kind of vegetable likes to look at animals? 

A zoo-chini!

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