Carrot Zucchini Muffins

photo 1

I splurged on a carrot zucchini muffin at a coffee shop a couple weeks ago and have been fighting the urge to get another one every day since. That’s the problem with treating yourself, I find – once you start, it’s so hard to stop. This particular carrot zucchini muffin appeared wholesome, but it tasted enough like carrot cake that I knew it couldn’t become a regular indulgence.  In my defense, it didn’t have frosting….but it was the size of a large grapefruit, so truly there was no way to rationalize it.

photo 2

photo 3

photo 4

photo 5

Since I was still craving them despite my internal pep talk every morning (“no, you don’t want that giant, sugary muffin – just order your coffee, get out of here, and go home and make a green smoothie”), I decided to try a healthier (and smaller) version at home. I did a quick google search, found a few recipes that looked good, and got to work. And by “work,” I mean, I used raw cane sugar rather than granulated, coconut oil rather than butter, and a lot more carrot and zucchini than the recipe called for. So work might be a strong word, but I did tweak the recipe a bit.

photo 1

photo 2

photo 3

The recipe calls for just a cup of carrot and a cup of zucchini – I found that one small zucchini yielded well over a cup, but what was I going to do with extra grated zucchini? so I threw it all in. Same with the carrots – one wasn’t enough, but two was too much – I saved some of my carrot gratings to snack on but all in all I think I put in over three cups of veggies when the recipe called for a total of two. As I think you can see from the photos, it definitely looks like way too much – when you add the carrot and zucchini to the wet ingredients you’ll think you messed something up – but somehow once you add the dry ingredients it turns into batter (albeit, a very veggie-heavy batter).

photo 4

photo 5

You can top these muffins with anything you want, or nothing at all. My coffee shop muffin of course had a delicious crumble on top – I made these for the first time with just chopped pecans on top, but then when I made them a second time I got a little fancier and tossed the pecans with a little cane sugar, cinnamon, and coconut oil. Next time I might add a few oats just for fun. But they’d be fine plain too.  I would really recommend doubling this recipe, as one batch won’t get you very far.  It’s so much easier to rationalize eating them when they’re tiny and healthy – even easier in mini-muffin form (and when you eat a mini it really doesn’t count).

photo 2

photo 1

Carrot Zucchini Muffins (adapted from Gimme Some Oven)

Yield: 12 regular or 24 mini muffins

Ingredients:

1/2 cup evaporated cane sugar or turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons (1/8 cup) coconut oil, melted
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated zucchini (approx. one small-medium)
1 cup grated carrot (approx. one very large or two small-medium)
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts, optional
1/2 cup all-purpose flour*
1/2 cup whole wheat flour* (I used whole wheat pastry flour, but regular should be fine)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

*or any combination of flours you want to total one cup. The original recipe called for one cup of white whole wheat flour, which I didn’t have on hand so I just used half white and half whole wheat.  I think a little almond flour and/or oat flour would be really good here too.

Directions: 

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Line your muffin pan with paper liners, or spray with cooking spray (I would recommend “PAM for baking” as the muffins tended to stick to the liners – the PAM made your muffin pan look a lot less pretty but the muffins popped right out).

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, egg, and salt.  Add in veggies and nuts (if using) and mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, and spices. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to combine.  Fill muffin tins about 2/3 full.  Top with extra nuts if you’d like.

Bake 20-25 minutes for regular muffins, 10-15 minutes for mini.  Muffins are done when the tops are nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into a muffin in the center of the pan comes out clean. Let them cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

photo 3

Whole Grain Pear Hazelnut Muffins

image

image

This cookbook has been all over my favorite food blogs of late, so I ordered it despite the fact that my breakfast typically consists of a green smoothie (or a Starbucks bagel on the too-common occasion that I’m out of a green smoothie ingredient). So far I’ve made the whole grain pancake mix, the blueberry breakfast bars, and these muffins. I’ve given the pancake mix as birthday and hostess gifts, and it’s been a hit. I made the blueberry bars when I spent the night with my friend Kyle and her picky toddler year old last week – Ellie gobbled them up, but Kyle and I decided that, while delicious, they seemed more like dessert than breakfast.  Next on my list of recipes to try: Bacon and Kale Polenta Squares (hold the bacon), Strawberry Oat Breakfast Crisp (although I suspect it, like the blueberry bars, might also be better suited as dessert), and Zucchini Farro Cakes – YUM.  And of course variations of this granola.  These muffins, though, are a definite win – you can do them ahead of time, and they really do feel healthy – the perfect breakfast treat.

My grandfather passed away a few weeks ago, at the age of 94. He spent the last few days of his life in the hospital, which was not the way he would have wanted to go, but he received such wonderful care from the doctors and nurses that we were all glad he was there. I wanted to do something nice for the nursing staff as a thank you and had planned to bake these cookies, but my cousin Christina (a nurse herself) suggested bringing in something healthier, as nurses get a lot of cookies.  I had seen these muffins on a couple blogs, and this seemed like the perfect excuse to try them.

image

image

image

I love the idea of cooking with whole grains – especially oats – and the pears make the muffins incredibly moist and dense without being too heavy. Sara from Sprouted Kitchen suggests a way to make them gluten free; Deb from Smitten Kitchen suggests you add chocolate, which they definitely don’t need, but I would imagine would be delicious.   Point being, you can swap out ingredients or doctor them up any way you like. I loved the pears but you could definitely use apples too.

image

image

image

It looks like a lot of bowls (and it is), but it’s really only the dry ingredients and the wet, combined with my tendency to make a mess in the kitchen and dirty more bowls than necessary. Deb includes suggestions to “streamline the recipe” (use fewer bowls) for anyone that doesn’t have the luxury of a dishwasher.

image

You could chop the nuts in a food processor, but I was worried they would get ground up too finely so I used a ziplock bag and my go-to crushing utensil, a bottle of wine. I also ate a lot of hazelnuts in the process, yum.

image

image

Pear-Hazelnut Oat Muffins, from Whole Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon (she’s a Seattle gal so I’m extra happy to support her!)

Makes 12 standard muffins (and maybe a few more)

3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2-3 firm medium pears, such as Bartlett (you want them firm so they don’t get too mushy when you grate them)
2/3 cup natural cane sugar, such as turbinado
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan (I’m going to try coconut oil next time)
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, cooled, and coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin tin, or line with papers.

In a bowl, combine the oats, flours, baking soda, baking powder, cardamom, nutmeg, and salt. Mix well and set aside.

Peel and core the pears, then grate them into a bowl using the large holes of a box grater (or the grater attachment of your food processor). You should end up with about 1 cup of shredded pear [Note: I doubled the recipe so grated four pears, and ended up with about four cups of grated pear, unpacked – I dumped them all into my batter and the muffins turned out fine. Just in case you were worried about ending up with too much grated pear].

Put the sugar in a large bowl. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the butter to the sugar and stir until well combined. Whisk in the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and pear until you have what resembles a loose batter. Add the flour mixture and fold it in gently. Reserve 1/2 cup of the hazelnuts to sprinkle on top of the muffins; stir the other 1/2 cup into the batter. Be careful not to overmix.

Fill the muffin cups almost to the top with batter, and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup hazelnuts. Put the muffins in the oven and immediately decrease the heat to 375 F. Bake until the tops are golden brown and feel firm to the touch, even in the center, 25-27 minutes (they might look done before they really are – the tops will brown before the fruit-filled centers are cooked through).

Let the muffins cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan. Muffins will keep in an airtight container for up to two days; they also freeze well.

All wrapped up for Grandpa's nurses, along with boxes of See's chocolates, his favorite

All wrapped up for Grandpa’s nurses, along with boxes of See’s chocolates – his favorite