Mocha Zucchini Muffins

First things first, Happy Easter!

Christ the Lord is risen today.
All creation join to say. 
Raise you joys and triumphs high.
Sing ye heaven and earth reply. 

Love's redeeming work is done.
Fought the fight, the battle won.
Death in vain forbids him rise.
Christ has opened paradise.

What a glorious day! When I think about all I have in Christ I am continually blown away by what I have been given, not because of anything I have done, I can take credit in no way for my salvation, I believe because God first chose me. How humbling is this truth. 

I this beautiful day, full of celebration and new birth I was inspired to create something new and delicious out of something old. I've had a bag of shredded zucchini floating around in my freezer since last summer. I keep meaning to do something with it, but I always say "next time". Well, not this time! I found a new zucchini muffin recipe, adjusted it for what I wanted, and finished off last years produce, finally! This was the perfect way to do it too. A light and healthy whole grain muffin, lightly sweetened and filled with one of my favorite treats; chocolate covered espresso beans!!

When I saw this recipe I knew I had to make it. I didn't have a go-to zucchini muffin but this one looked promising, and I was right. It's just rich enough to make it special, but not too rich to make it feel overly indulgent. The original recipe calls for a streusel on top which would be marvelous, but I skipped it this time out of laziness, but did chop up a handful of dark chocolate espresso beans for pizzaz. And chocolate. Come on. 

The final product came out as beautiful as I had hoped. Flecked with green from the zucchini, and chocolate from the espresso beans. I added some espresso powder for a little extra mocha flavor, and probably could have added more (I think I'll try 1/2 teaspoon next time!). They turned out light and satisfying. A perfect zucchini muffin. 

 
 


Mocha Zucchini Muffins
Adapted from The Almond Eater
Ingredients

  • 1 cup (120 grams) whole wheat flour
  • 1-2 tablespoons (12-25 grams) brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) milk
  • 2 tablespoons (37 grams) maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup grated zucchini
  • 1/4 cup chocolate covered espresso beans, roughly chopped

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a muffin tin with muffin liners, set aside

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and espresso powder in a bowl and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and then add olive oil, milk, syrup and vanilla. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients. Add the zucchini, and stir until combined. 

Transfer the batter to the prepared muffin tin. Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven, wait a few minutes for the muffins to cool before removing them from the tin.

Yields: 6 muffins

Buckwheat Oat Breakfast Bites

Breakfast bites; little mounds of oat-y goodness, something fun and different to dig into for breakfast, or snack in the afternoon. Full of whole grains, healthy fats, and unrefined sugar. Win - win - win! And chocolate, don't forget the chocolate on top. You can put the chocolate inside them if that's more your style, I just love how a little drizzle on top finishes them off. 

These are a wiz to throw together, everything into the food processor and you're set, in just a minute or two you have your cookie dough, ready for the cookie scoop and into the oven. I've made other variations on these cookies before, but for this version I went with one of my favorite combinations, tahini and honey. I added a little buckwheat flour for it's lovely hint of bitterness, and a little cinnamon to round it all out. Drizzle with chocolate once cool and breakfast is served!

 
 

Buckwheat Oat Breakfast Bites
Adapted from The Clever Carrot
Ingredients

  • 2 cups (160 grams) old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) whole wheat flour
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup (64 grams) tahini, or your favorite nut butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 6 tbs honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Chocolate, for drizzling (optional)

Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. 

Add the oats, white whole wheat flour, and baking soda to a food processor. Run the machine until the oats look like 'flour.' It's okay to have a few big pieces in the mix.

Add the egg, tahini, coconut oil, honey and vanilla extract. Pulse until the mixture until it looks like cookie dough and holds together when pinched between 2 fingers.

Using a cookie scoop to portion the cookies onto your lined baking sheets. Bake for about 12-13 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool on the tray for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Lentil Salad with Tomatoes and Gorgonzola

It's finally spring here in Michigan. Yesterday was lovely, and today is looking like it's going to be even better. Unfortunately I'm working this weekend, but hopefully I'll get out in time to enjoy a little of the beautiful sunshine. During the winter and early spring, before any spring produce has hit the farmer's market, my quick meal repertoire is full of grains, legumes and roasted veggies. I never get tired of any combination of these things. There are endless possibilities, different combinations of these various components as well as different spices, sauces, and other add-ins. It's really almost impossible to go wrong. Some might turn out a little better than others, but I'm always happy with the end result.

I usually just find myself throwing a bunch of things together depending on what's in my fridge at the moment. For this recipe however, I actually did follow a recipe from the cookbook Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi with just a few minor adaptations. I love his recipes and so wanted to actually follow one of them fairly closely to see his magic at work. I find that when I just do my own thing I can get stuck in a rut of the same flavor combinations, or at least very similar combinations of ingredients. Deferring to someone else from time to time can help inspire me to try out something new.

I kept this recipe pretty true to the original. I didn't have chives so used green onion instead. Added a bit of lemon zest at the very end to perk things up a bit, add a little brightness. I also used pomegranate vinegar instead of balsamic vinegar because I don't have any balsamic right now. This is a light and fresh salad; delicious, simple, healthy. Really exactly what I love. The sweetness of the tomatoes pairs perfectly with the creamy Gorgonzola and sharpness of the red onion. All the herbs really amp up the flavor adding even more freshness.

There are endless variations are possible on this basic theme. I would keep the tomatoes, onions and obviously the lentils, but could change up the cheese to anything nice and creamy, and can swap out the herbs for your favorite herb or whatever you have on hand. Add some spices, sauce, more roasted veggies. To really make it a filling meal you could add some chicken, or tofu on top depending on your preference. It could all go on top of a bed of greens as well to bulk it up and turn into more of a green salad. All wonderful, and I'm sure delicious, ideas.

 
 

Lentil Salad with Tomatoes and Gorgonzola
Adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
Ingredients
Oven-dried tomatoes:

  • 3 plum tomatoes
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate or balsamic vinegar
  • salt

Salad:

  • 1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup (120 grams) French lentils
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, crush
  • black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped green onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 1 1/2 ounces Gorgonzola, crumbled
  • lemon zest (optional)

Directions
To make the oven-dried tomatoes. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Quarter the tomatoes vertically and place skin-side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Arrange the thyme sprigs on top of them. Drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with some salt. Roast for 1 1/2 hours, or until semi-dried. Discard the thyme and allow to cool slightly. 

Meanwhile, place the red onion in a medium bowl, pour over the vinegar and sprinkle with the sea salt. Stir, then leave for a few minutes so the onion softens a big. 

Place the lentils in a pan of boiling water (the water should come 1 1/4 inches above the lentils) and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until tender. Drain well in a sieve and, while still warm, add to the sliced onion. Also add the olive oi, garlic and some black pepper. Stir to mix and leave aside to cool down. Once cool, add the herbs and gently mix together. Taste and adjust seasoning. 

To serve, pile up the lentils on a large plate or bowl, integrating the Gorgonzola and tomatoes as you build up the pile. Drizzle the tomato cooking juices on top and serve. 
 

100% Whole Wheat Banana Cocoa Nib Breakfast Cake

Cake for breakfast is one of my favorite things. This banana breakfast cake is an adaptation of an oldie but goodie here on the blog, banana chocolate chip breakfast cake that I've made numerous times. I changed it up a bit by using 100% whole wheat flour and using cocoa nibs instead of chocolate chips which adds a very different but yummy flavor. If you haven't had cocoa nibs before I recommend giving them a try. They are crunchy and have the essence of chocolate, but be forewarned, they are not sweet, but really quite bitter and have a bit of a fermented flavor. Very interesting, but can be surprising if this is not what you are expecting. This cake may be a little on the plain side, but don't let it's humble appearance fool you, it is delicious!

So, along with using cocoa nibs instead of chocolate, I also cut back a bit on the sugar in this version of the cake, I wanted something a little less sweet for those mornings when "less sweet" is calling to me. While I cut back on the sugar, I added a bit more butter than in the original. Why not, less sugar, more fat, sounds like a good exchange in my book! This actually may have been an "accidental" increase originally...but the final results were wonderful, so I recommend making this "mistake" every time!! The final product is light and moist, perfect to enjoy alongside your morning coffee. 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Banana Breakfast Cake with Cocoa Nibs
Adapted from Banana Chocolate Chip Breakfast Cake
Ingredients

  • 1½ cups (210 g) whole wheat flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • ½  cup (100 g) sugar 
  • 4 tablespoons (55 g) melted butter 
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (7-8 ounces), made from about 2 very ripe medium-sized bananas 
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) liquid whey or buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 2 tablespoons (20 g) cocoa nibs

Directions
Sift together in a medium bowl the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and sugar. Set aside.  

In a large bowl, mix together the butter, egg, banana puree, liquid whey, and vanilla.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and stir in the wet ingredients with a spatula until almost mixed. Add in the cocoa nibs and stir until just combined, but don’t over-stir: stop when any traces of flour disappear.

Scrape the mixture into a prepared 8-inch round cake pan and bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the center feels lightly-springy and just done. Cool on a baking rack.

Maple Oat Breakfast Bites

These snack bites are tasty little guys that are great to have on hand in case your last meal wasn't quite enough to keep you full and satisfied until the next one. They're full of whole grains, healthy fats and sweetened naturally with maple syrup, all things that make me feel good about popping one (or two, or three...) into my mouth mid-afternoon. I made them tiny so depending on how hungry I am I can decide how many to eat. I didn't want to call these cookies, because I think doing so might disappoint some people. They aren't super sweet or tender, they're a little on the "dry" side in texture, and are slightly crumbly, but not fall-apart crumbly. Overall nutty and satisfying, but doesn't make you think you're eating dessert, a good compromise!

These little guys are super easy to make. Just throw everything into the food processor and let it do the work for you. If you want something a little extra special try adding some mini chocolate chips, or drizzling with melted chocolate. You can also play around with the type of nut butter you use; almond, PB, cashew, I'm sure sunflower seed butter would be good too. Overall, yum!

 
 

Maple Oat Breakfast Bites
Adapted from The Clever Carrot

  • 2 cups (160 grams) old fashioned oats 
  • 1 cup (120 grams) spelt or whole wheat flour
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup (64 grams) almond butter
  • 1/4 cup (75 grams) pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Add the oats, whole wheat flour, and baking soda to a food processor. Run the machine until the oats look like 'flour.' It's okay to have a few big pieces in the mix.

Add the egg, coconut oil, almond butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Pulse until the mixture looks like cookie dough. If the dough is too wet or runny, just add a sprinkle of flour and pulse gently until it comes together, if it is too dry add a little extra coconut oil or maple syrup.

Shape the cookies into balls and place on lined baking sheets.

Bake for about 12-14 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool on the tray for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Yield: 24 cookies

Buttery Bran Muffins

Back to basics this morning with a simple yet delicious bran muffin. Nothing fancy, nothing weird.  Start with some wheat bran (obviously) and whole wheat flour for healthy whole grains. Add in some Greek yogurt and butter, a little sugar and an egg and you're basically there. I love experimenting with new grains so I used spelt flour for these muffins but regular old whole wheat would also work. If you have some raisins hanging around go ahead and add those in for a nice raisin bran muffin. I didn't have any in the pantry so I skipped it this time and they were still wonderfully delicious and flavorful. 

These muffins bake up tall and beautiful, just how I like my muffins! They are very light and tender, I couldn't at all tell that they were 100% whole wheat. The flax and coarse sugar on top is just the finishing touch to really make these humble muffins shine. 

 
 

Buttery Bran Muffins
Adapted from Serious Eats
Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (27.5 grams) wheat bran
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) boiling water
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) plain whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 1 egg, cold
  • 1 1/4 cup (170 grams) spelt or whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (75 grams) sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/8 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter
  • 1/2 cup (3 ounces) golden raisins, optional
  • Flaxseed and turbinado sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Directions
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350°F (177°C). In a large measuring cup, combine wheat bran and boiling water. Let stand 5 minutes, then stir in Greek yogurt and egg. Meanwhile, combine whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter is incorporated, then add bran mixture and continue only until the batter is well combined. With a flexible spatula, scrape the bowl and fold the batter once or twice to make sure it's well mixed from the bottom up, then fold in the raisins if using.

Divide the batter between 8 lightly greased muffin cups. This is enough to completely fill each cup with a little mountain of batter, but do not be alarmed; it will rise significantly but spread very little overall. If you like, sprinkle with flaxseed and turbinado sugar, and bake until puffed and firm, about 16-18 minutes. 

Yields: 8 muffins

Fudgy Chocolate Chunk Protein Bars

I'm not a big fan of trying to rebrand food as something it's not. I understand the reasoning, but I still don't like it. Vegan cheese is not cheese, almond milk is not milk, and a turkey bacon is not bacon. It's not that I have anything against these foods and don't necessarily have a problem eating most of them, I just don't like how they're named something they actually aren't. Instead of always trying to replace a food product with something else, why not instead try to come up with something different, and better!

Black bean brownies are another thing that I just can't get into saying. I just don't think a baked good full of black beans is a brownie. To me a brownie is chocolate, butter, eggs and sugar with just a little flour. It's a magical combination, and no recipe with beans is going to be comparable, unless of course the ratio is so out of wack that there are hardly any black beans in it anyway and then what's the point? But this does not mean I'm against what most people try to brand as "black bean brownies". I'm intrigued by anything that claims to be nutritious AND delicious. I'd just like to propose that instead of calling these concoctions "brownies", that we step back and just call them "bars" instead. A bar can be made out of anything, including beans!

I searched the internet high and low and came back with dozens of black bean brownie recipes. There were several that I was considering trying when I just decided to make up my own! That way I had complete control over what went in it, and I could make it to my taste. I wanted to make something less dessert-y and more of a snack I could feel pretty good eating in the afternoon when I suddenly realize that I didn't eat enough for lunch and dinner is still hours away! These bars were the result. I would especially not call these a brownie because they are not sweet enough. I didn't want them to be super sweet, just enough sugar to make them taste nice, but not like a rich dessert. So be warned if you want to try them that they will not be sweet. 

In the end I was very pleased with how they turned out. They are dense and fudge, yet a little dry in texture. They hold together very well and are a great on-the-go snack. They are chocolate-y enough to feel like a treat without being so rich as to seem like dessert. And as for any bean flavor, nope! You really can't tastes beans at all. I cooked my beans from dry, so I can't say how canned black beans would taste in this recipe, but I imagine they would be just fine. Overall, a good snack, satisfying and nutritious. 

 
 

Chocolate Chunk Protein Bars
Created by Delectably Mine
Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) pureed black beans
  • 1/4 cup (64 grams) almond butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup (40 grams) cocoa powder
  • 6 medjool dates (110 grams)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons (42 grams) honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • A couple dashes of cinnamon and/or cardamom
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) chocolate chunks

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a food processor place the beans and almond butter. Process until smooth. Add the eggs and process until well combined. Add the remainder of the ingredients (except the chocolate chunks), and process until smooth and uniform. Remove the blade and stir in the chocolate chunks by hand.

Transfer the batter (it will be very thick) to a greased and lined 9x9 inch pan. Smooth the batter into an even layer. Place in preheated oven and baked for 35-40 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan until cutting into bars. 

Spiced Oat Cookies with Chocolate and Fruit

Cookies are the best. They're always a hit, they're easy to make, the options are endless, and did I mention, they're delicious! I'm always on the lookout for a new cookie to try even though I have plenty of good recipes in the archives. You never know when you'll stumble upon the best recipe ever. Recently I came across this recipe for Cardamom-Spice Oat Cookies from King Arthur Flour and they looked just different enough and tasty enough to try. 

Don't ask me how, but I managed to completely forget to add the cardamom to the cardamom-spice cookies so they became just plain "spiced" cookies, but that didn't seem to matter too much in the end. The final cookie was fantastic! Visually beautiful with a wonderful texture, slightly crisp on the edges yet nice and chewy in the center. I've had some trouble with oatmeal cookies in the past always being too soft for my liking but these were perfect. They baked up well, spread perfectly, not too flat, not too round, a smashing success. 

When I started to make these cookies I realized that my brown sugar was as hard as a rock and I didn't feel like dealing with trying to soften it up, so I just replaced it with white sugar and it was fine. I threw in some chocolate and dried fruit, prunes were what I had so in they went! Any dried fruit would do, I'm partial to chocolate cherry myself, but really anything will work. 

I halved the original recipe and didn't want to halve an egg so I just skipped it and added a little 1/2 and 1/2 for fat and liquid. Necessary? Probably not, but they turned out great, so whatever! I ended up getting 8 nice sized cookies out of this recipe, each cookie was about 50-55 grams of dough. I thought they were a perfect size in the end, not too big and not too small. All around delicious!

 
 

Spiced Oat Cookies with Chocolate and Fruit
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Ingredients

  • 5/8 cup (75 grams) all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (60 grams) old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 cup (70 grams) butter
  • 1/3 cup (70 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (20 grams) maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) half and half
  • 1/4 cup (28 grams) chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup (28 grams) prunes, chopped into bite-sized pieces

Directions
Line a baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and syrup together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the vanilla and half and half and beat at medium speed until smooth. Scrape the bowl once again.

Add the dry mixture and mix at low speed until just combined. Scrape the bowl and mix once more for 30 seconds. Add the chocolate and fruit and mix until well blended.

Place the dough and refrigerate at least a couple of hours, or overnight. When ready to bake, scoop out pin pong-sized balls of dough (I did 50 grams of dough each), and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Place in a preheated 350°F oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, until just golden at the edges and have set in the center. Remove from the oven and cool on the pan for 5-10 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Yields: approximately 8 large cookies
Nutrition: approximately 180 calories per cookie