My last post was all about loss, heartbreak, and an outrageously rich pie, so I’m going to try to lighten things up this week. Last weekend, after making the peanut butter pie for Mikey, Joseph and I went to meet Zoe, the 3 1/2 week old baby of our friends, Christina and Adam. Her amazing, full, dark head of hair, her smile, her dimple, and her tiny little toes and fingers were the perfect remedy for thinking about loss of life. This little bundle of jubilation is just beginning her life and it’s amazing to think of how she’ll grow and the person that she will become.
We already had a small gift for Zoe, but it was equally important to me to bring some baked goods for the parents and I had been desperate to make these cherry almond muffins ever since I had seen them on The Pastry Affair. I absolutely adore cherries (I decided this summer that they’re my favorite fruit, which is saying something because I hate to pick favorites) and I loved the idea of pairing them up with almonds. This was the perfect time to finally get to try them out.
Remember that carrot cake I made last week? And how much I enjoyed shoving carrots down the shoot of the food processor? Well, I went overboard on both the purchase of carrots and the shredding of carrots. The carrots I didn’t shred were perfect for the Chicken in Escabeche of Caramelized Onions, Carrots, and Jalapeños. But I needed something to use up the nearly two extra cups of shredded carrots that I ended up with. I saw a recipe somewhere for carrot zucchini muffins and decided that was the perfect way to at least use some of them up. I finally got around to getting some zucchini last night, but then I couldn’t find the recipe. I searched through my cookbooks, but finally gave up and went to my friend, the interwebs. I found a healthy (you know, as healthy as they can be when they have a cup and a half of sugar…) recipe that was reviewed well and I had all the ingredients, so I went with it.
Let me just say that this is not a dessert muffin. I know there are plenty of people that generally don’t eat muffins for dessert, but I think many muffins, especially right out of the oven, make a wonderful dessert. These muffins are fine for breakfast or a snack. But they are NOT a dessert muffin. So when your husband has just made you a delicious dinner and then wants some dessert, don’t tell him to hold off on dessert because you are going to make these muffins because everyone involved will be disappointed. No, it’s probably better that he go for the Ben & Jerry’s fro yo in the freezer.
I still have another 3/4 cup or so of shredded carrots, so let me know if you have any great ideas!
Carrot Zucchini Muffins
Adapted from Nicole’s Winter Carrot Zucchini Bread
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
6 egg whites*
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup grated unpeeled zucchini
1 cup grated carrot
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)**
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease muffin tin.
- Sift together all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt in a large bowl until well blended.
- Beat egg whites with a mixer until light and frothy. Stir in applesauce, brown sugar, zucchini, carrots, and vanilla until well combined. Mix in the raisins and pecans, if using. Add the flour mixture, stirring just until blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes or so. Pop the muffins out and let cool on a wire rack.
* I didn’t feel like wasting 6 egg yolks and didn’t have time to make ice cream or a custard and I was lazy and didn’t feel like doing the whole beating and folding with the egg whites, so I just used 3 eggs. It might work with just 2 eggs. And it would certainly be healthier with all egg whites, but oh well.
** I didn’t use em. And I’ll hide it in the footnote that you can also add raisins if you want. If I were ever going to put raisins in a muffin, this is probably the muffin I would do it in.
My husband knows me pretty well. The other day I was going to bake a carrot cake for a coworker’s birthday and I also wanted to bake something for a picnic and Shakespeare in the park the next night. At first Joseph thought this was a great idea and then he got this look in his eye — one could call it panic — and insisted I should only make the cake. I guess you can say that my nearest and dearest all know how much I love to bake, but also what a ridiculous mess I become when I get stressed in the kitchen. That night we went to the gym, made dinner, and went to the grocery before I could get started, not to mention the fact that it was HOT and we have no AC in the kitchen. So I decided to nix the Cooks Illustrated brownies I’d been thinking about making and just make some simple banana muffins with chocolate chips for the picnic in addition to the cake. Joseph still looked concerned, but I assured him that I could practically make these muffins blindfolded as long as I had some super ripe bananas (which we did).
I’ve tried many, many banana bread recipes and this is my favorite so far. I still need to try the Cook’s Illustrated recipe, but it looks so complex and part of what I love about this recipe is how quick and easy it is. The nuts are optional, but I think it really adds to the depth of flavor as well as the texture. I like to break the pieces up fairly small so that there’s just enough subtle crunch to keep things interesting. Since these were going to be dessert-like, I also added chocolate chips. I would normally use smaller chips, but I had the Ghirardelli bittersweet chips on hand which are kind of on the big side. C’est la vie, I didn’t think anyone was going to complain about big chunks of chocolate in their muffins. Lo and behold, they were a hit and we came home empty-handed which is a very good thing because after that carrot cake, the last thing I needed was muffins in the house!
Quick and Easy Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3 large ripe bananas (about 3 cups mashed)*
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)**
- 1/2 cup chopped almonds, walnuts, or pecans (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tin or use paper liners.
- Beat oil, sugar, eggs, and mashed bananas until well blended in large bowl. You can do this in a mixer, but save yourself the mess and just do it by hand.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold into the wet ingredients being careful not to overmix. Add the vanilla and chocolate chips and nuts if using.
- Spoon into prepared tin and bake 20 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the tin and cool on a rack.
* We actually had a big bunch of these little tiny bananas we got at Whole Foods (Joseph was hoping they were the same as some bananas he used to get back in the Philippines, but no) and I had no idea if it would be enough. It ended up only being 2 cups, but everything worked out just fine. Just make sure that the banana is really, really ripe (i.e. black). It will yield much better flavor, not to mention it will be easier to mash.
** I never bother measuring the chocolate chips and just add until it looks like the right ratio. It is quite likely that it is usually more than half a cup