Whole Wheat Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

IMG_8156Is anyone else out there in utter shock that it’s already August? The sun is setting just a bit later every night, the first ripe blackberries of the season are appearing on the wild bushes all over my island, and yesterday I came home from a two-day trip to find my vegetable crisper overflowing with zucchini. It’s common knowledge that this is the time of year when every garden-owner is up to their ears in zucchini. Although my family doesn’t have a garden of our own we happen to be the lucky neighbors of a fantastic (and generous) gardener who likes to share. And who happens to be up in her ears in zucchini, of course. Works for me!

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While I love zucchini in many of its savory forms, including stuffed zucchini, grilled zucchini, roasted zucchini, you name it, I am of course partial to using it in my baking. It adds so much moisture, texture, vitamins and nutrients to baked goods without making them taste like a salad, and it’s so easy to use. Just pull out your cheese grater (or food processor) and shred away. Shredded zucchini can be frozen for later use, which is a definite plus for those overwhelmed zucchini-growers, but my zucchini stock never makes it that far. Not with my baking addiction being as it is.

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First up on the zucchini list were Whole Wheat Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins. Usually when I make muffins (with a few exceptions, of course) I like to make them relatively healthy so that I can feel just a bit less guilty while serving them for breakfast. So naturally, there’s nearly a cup of chocolate chips in this recipe. Hah. But aside from the much-needed dose of dark chocolate (which I totally condone, even at breakfast), these are nearly guilt-free. They contain NO butter or oil, instead relying on applesauce, eggs, and zucchini to keep them moist and hold them together. There’s only 1/3 cup of refined sugar in the whole batch, and the nutritional content is boosted further with the addition of whole wheat flour and, of course, zucchini. Orange zest and cinnamon serve to give the muffins wonderful flavor in a healthy way, and while these are plenty sweet they taste like real food, not like the sugary cupcakey muffins that so many of us are used to.

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If you need a way to use up a bit of zucchini, definitely add these to your list. I mean, who wouldn’t want to eat zucchini in the form of a tender, flavorful, considerably healthy muffin containing a hint of fresh orange zest and warm cinnamon? And did I mention that every bite contains rich dark chocolate? That alone should have you running to the kitchen right now!

Whole Wheat Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

Makes about 12 standard-size muffins or a 9″x5″ loaf*

2 cups white whole wheat flour (or 1 cup all-purpose and 1 cup whole wheat)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1/3 cup honey or molasses (I used a mixture of both)

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (or vegetable oil)

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups shredded, unpeeled zucchini (from about 1 medium zucchini)

3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or spray well with baking spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Set aside.

Place the brown sugar in a medium bowl. Add in the orange zest and use your fingers to incorporate it into the sugar. When the mixture is well-combined and fragrant, whisk in the honey or molasses, applesauce, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Gently stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, mixing just until no flour streaks remain. Stir in the shredded zucchini and chocolate chips.

Scoop the batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 of the way. Bake for 20-24 minutes or until tops bounce back when touched and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let the muffins cool for 5 minutes in the tins, then remove to a cooling rack. Store leftover muffins in an air-tight container at room temperature.

*To make zucchini bread, pour the batter into a greased and floured 9″x5″ loaf pan. Smooth the top and bake for 50-60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack, then allow the bread to cool completely before slicing.

(Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour)

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Skinny Chocolate Coconut Muffins

IMG_3180When I was little, I had a bit of a sweet tooth. Actually, it was more like a saber-tooth-tiger-sized sweet tooth, meaning that if I could I would inhale every piece of sugar that came my way. Lucky for me I had the metabolism of a hummingbird and two parents whose idea of treats was honey sticks, organic rice pudding, and homemade fruit juice popsicles. Maybe it was because we only had junk food on special occasions (Jell-O when we were sick, Starbursts when we went to the movies, Dove Bars when my grandparents visited) that I was unstoppable when supplied with sugary treats.

Whenever we stayed at hotels, I always took full advantage of the complimentary breakfast, piling my plate high with danishes, cinnamon rolls, muffins, and whatever other sugary carbs were available in the little plastic display cases. It was another one of those special occasions I so looked forward to. My parents used to worry about what would happen to me once I grew up and moved out of the house. I think they pictured me going walking into the grocery store and having free reign to buy whatever I felt like, and that was a terrifying image at the time.

They needn’t have worried, because now I’m much more sensible. I sample what I bake and eat some candy, but for the most part I stay away from overly-processed, corn-syrup-ridden junk. Moderation is my motto, and my parents no longer fear that their only daughter will become a walking block of sugar–I do most of our grocery shopping, too, and I can promise it’s all quite healthy…for the most part ;).

However, for those of you that still have insatiable sweet tooths (sweet teeth just sounded weird), I have a chocolatey treat that I think you’ll love…and your waistline will love too! These are the type of muffin that you don’t have to feel guilty about piling onto your breakfast plate…they’re gluten-free, low-fat, and low-sugar, but still super moist, rich, and delicious. My mom, who’s been gluten-free for a few years now and hasn’t had a “cupcake,” as she called these, in forever, proclaimed that these were “the BEST cupcakes” she thinks she’s ever had. Of course, given the amount of time she’s spent away from gluten I doubted she could even remember what a real cupcake tastes like. When I tasted one, though, I ate my words–no pun intended! The texture is really more like a cupcake than a muffin, with a fine crumb and a mega-chocolate flavor. The oats add a little chewiness, which I love, and the coconut sugar and sprinkling of coconut flakes give just a hint of tropical flavor. If someone had told me when I was six that I could eat a chocolate cupcake for breakfast, I would have practically fainted with glee.

It’s true that you’re totally justified to eat these for breakfast. They’re practically health food. Seriously. Go for it. YOLO.

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Skinny Chocolate Coconut Muffins

Yield: about 18 standard-size muffins

1 cup hot water*

3 large egg whites

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 3/4 cup oats

1 cup coconut sugar (or granulated sugar)

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

*Alternately, you could omit the cream of tartar and use 1 cup of buttermilk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 18 muffin tins with paper liners and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg whites, applesauce, yogurt, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the oats, coconut sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. When incorporated, stir in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the batter into prepared muffin tins, filling about 3/4 of the way. Sprinkle batter with shredded coconut and bake for 18-22 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Cool and enjoy!

(Recipe adapted from Six Sisters’ Stuff)