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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Orange Chocolate Chip Scones

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It’s a bit of a struggle to sit here and type this post. As much as I love putting together new recipes for my readers, there is something outside right now that makes me want to gravitate to the front door and step out. It’s something that rarely shows up around here, and brings with it warmth and hope and vitamins and general all-around happiness. Yep, I’m talking about the sun. Sadly, it tends to hide beneath a thick layer of gray clouds for about 9 months of the year around here, and when it finally shows its face it’s pretty much cause for celebration. While the Pacific Northwest is home to tons of amazing things such as the Cascade and Olympic mountains, apple orchards, the first Starbucks, Macklemore, and of course the ocean, it doesn’t have much to boast about when it comes to days of sunshine, contrary to what those touristy travel brochures will tell you. You know it’s the truth when the first sunny day of spring results in your entire newsfeed on Facebook being filled with nothing but statuses about the sun. Sad, yet true.

If I had any sense at all, I’d be cutting to the chase right about now so I can go outside and enjoy this beautiful, blue-skyed day! Here’s the gist of it:

-I’ve been trying to branch out from trying so many recipes off of blogs, Pinterest, and other Internet sources and instead experience the old-fashioned baking nostalgia that can only come from following a recipe off of a real-life, 3-dimensional, flour-stained cookbook. So instead of scouring my millions of bookmarked recipes-to-try, I pulled out my copy of The Joy of Cooking and leafed through the pages until I found….

-Orange Chocolate Chip Scones, today’s featured recipe. Perfect for spring, perfect for breakfast, brunch, snacks, desserts…the list goes on and on. Tender, slightly flaky, not-too-sweet scones with a dose of fresh orange zest and decadent dark chocolate make for a fabulous Saturday morning treat. Or a Sunday brunch addition. Or a late-night snack on Monday. You get the point…

-Don’t skimp on the chocolate here. Dark chocolate and orange is my favorite combo, but use whatever type you like. Just make sure it’s good-quality chocolate, since the orange zest and chocolate are the major players here. The combination is so good. So very, very good.

-I’m going to go enjoy my sun now, before it disappears. Happy scone-making!

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Orange Chocolate Chip Scones

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/4 tsp baking powder

3 Tbs granulated sugar*

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold butter, cut into small cubes

2 large eggs

1/3 cup whipping cream

1 Tbs fresh orange zest

1/2 cup dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Sugar, for sprinkling

*If you like sweeter scones, add in an extra tablespoon or two of sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in the cold butter until it’s the size of small peas.

Whisk the eggs in a small bowl. Reserve 2 Tbs of the beaten eggs. Whisk the cream into the remaining eggs. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the egg/cream mixture, the orange zest, and the chocolate chips. Gently fold the mixture together until barely combined. Be careful not to over-mix, or the scones will be tough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface or a silicone baking mat. The dough should stick together but still be pretty “shaggy.” If it’s way too dry, drizzle a little cream onto the dough, about 1 teaspoon at a time, until it can be patted into a disc. Pat the dough into an 8-inch circle and then cut into 8-12 wedges. If you’re using a silicone mat, just slip the mat onto a cookie sheet and slightly separate the wedges. Otherwise, place the wedges onto a lightly greased cookie sheet.

Brush the scones with reserved eggs and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until tops are golden-brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. These are best eaten the day they are made, but can be stored in an airtight container for several days.

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(Recipe from the 75th Anniversary-edition of The Joy of Cooking)

Raisin-and-Nut Bran Muffins

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Here comes the first recipe of the new year! I can’t believe it’s already 2013…the year I graduate from high school! Lots to look forward to, lots to do.

It’s no secret that many people’s new year’s resolutions revolve around eating healthier, exercising regularly, losing weight, etc. So to help start your year off right, regardless of what your resolution was, I have a special treat for you all today…a special healthy treat, that is! During the holiday season it’s hard to resist the platters of cookies, tins of fudge, seasonal Starbucks drinks and other not-so-waistline-friendly treats that seem to be everywhere, and I’m sure I didn’t help much by providing tantalizing recipes for cookie dough fudge, chocolate candy cane swirl cookies, and other naughty treats. (That said, I still stand by the idea of everything in moderation, and if eating too much chocolate on Christmas morning is wrong then I don’t want to be right!)

Luckily, with these Raisin-and-Nut Bran Muffins that I created you can enjoy a delicious snack while still feeling good about what you’re eating! They’re full of fiber, whole grains and a small dose of healthy fats, resulting in a moist and hearty muffin. These have very little sugar compared to most muffins, but you won’t miss it! The fresh orange zest, vanilla, and plump raisins give these plenty of flavor and sweetness.

Here’s to a new year filled with health, happiness, and success! Try new things, make new goals, and remember to pause now and then and be glad for the little things in life. After all, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.” (Name that movie!)

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Raisin-and-Nut Bran Muffins

1 cup oat bran (or wheat bran)

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 cup packed brown sugar or coconut sugar

1 cup milk

2 Tbs vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 tsp orange zest

1 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners (or lightly grease). Set aside.

Place the raisins in a bowl and cover with very hot water. Allow the raisins to soak while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the bran, flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, vanilla, eggs, and orange zest. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until incorporated. Drain the raisins and fold them in.

Scoop the batter evenly into prepared muffin tins. Sprinkle with the chopped pecans and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until tops bounce back when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out clean.