Monday, September 28, 2015

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

I missed the part where it was September. Yes, I've had my pumpkin spice latte. Yes, I've pulled out the sweaters. Yes, I noticed it's getting darker way earlier which makes me sad. But somehow, I woke up and realized it's almost October--OCTOBER?!?! I've got a stockpile of apple and pumpkin all ready to go but I can't quite commit to October treats just yet. Maybe next week.

To bridge the gap, I brought back Muffin Monday at work. Zucchini is still the love my summer life and I've made oodles of zoodles (mostly so I can say "oodles of zoodles" more often). When I was in Maine a couple weeks ago, my mom and I made a double batch of zucchini bread (so much zucchini bread). My mom usually makes it chocolate zucchini bread but this time, we did a nice half and half of regular and chocolate loaves.

Inspired by this epic baking session, I created these chocolate zucchini muffins as a way to have a healthy breakfast on the go. Instead of oil, we're using Greek yogurt. I also solidly believe the yogurt gives a better texture to breads and muffins. For good measure, we're also adding pecans--because we [pe]can! You know you love the puns.

A large zucchini is shredded onto a double layer of paper towels. You need to squeeze out that extra water from the vegetable before we make it into muffins. One bowl contains our zucchini, another contains our dry ingredients while the biggest bowl has the wet ingredients. Eggs, sugar and yogurt are whisked together before stirring in the dry ingredients. When I started this process, I wasn't going to make them chocolate so I added the cocoa powder after the fact. It worked out in the end.

Zucchini and pecans are added last, gently folded in to make sure you get a good bit in every bite. I baked these for about 30 minutes. Of course I ate one right away but without oil, they stick to the wrappers a bit until they are cooled. Tastes the same but you get less muffin for your buck until you let them set.

So what will Muffin Monday be next week, pumpkin? Apple? Banana? Decisions, decisions...

adapted from Joy of Cooking
  • 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups grated zucchini, drained of excess liquid
  • 1/4 chopped pecans (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with paper liners or grease with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, yogurt, vanilla and salt until creamy.
  4. Slowly stir the flour mixture into the egg-sugar mixture until incorporated.
  5. Fold in the zucchini and pecans (if desired) until evenly mixed.
  6. Fill muffin tins 3/4 of the way with batter.
  7. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean. 
  8. Allow to cool before eating. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Oatmeal S'mores Bars

If for some reason melted chocolate and marshmallows don't appeal to you, stick with this post anyways just for the life hack included. That's right, we're life-hacking butter, very important. Summer isn't complete without a s'more...or three. I successfully did the fire-building (okay, my brother did the fire building) and the marshmallow roasting and melty chocolate making.

I know you could technically roast marshmallows over a gas stove flame but you could also make these s'mores bars to capture the camp roasting goodness in the city. Or your home. Or in the winter. For-e-ver. These are basically chocolate chip oatmeal cookies with marshmallows in a bar. Totally acceptable for breakfast.

Are you ready for the life hack? I never remember to take butter out to soften. This means I stick it in the microwave and melt the stick instead. It works, clearly, but it's not the best way to get creamy butter and sugar base. So instead, I saw this video on how to quickly soften your butter while also taking out some aggression. Use a rolling pin and smoosh the butter! And by smoosh, I mean whack. It doesn't make the butter ooze everywhere, you could put it in a bag if you're concerned, but I rotated the stick as I hit the butter so it didn't get completely flat and evenly softened. Success!

Once you have your butter ready, cream it with the sugars using a hand mixer. The dry ingredients (excluding oats) are mixed in a separate bowl and then added to the sugar-butter goodness. It's gettin' thick! Once the dry and wet ingredients are well incorporated, fold in the oats. This is where your biceps go to work.

In a square pan, dump half of the oats mixture and flatten. Next, add a layer of chocolate chips. Be generous! Then, add a layer of marshmallows.

The second half of the oats mixture goes on top of the chocolate and mallow layer. This makes icing a cake look so darn easy. I found it easiest to just throw down a blob of batter and flatten rather than try and spread it. Top with another layer of chocolate, because we can.

Bake for awhile. Okay, not forever, just until everything is cooked through. It's hard to tell because this is so dense but use a chopstick to test the middle.

I let these cool and set overnight before trying to slice and share, the gooey warm marshmallow could get messy but oh so delicious. Like I said, completely acceptable for breakfast.

from Spoon Fork Bacon

  • 1 2/3 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened (or beaten with a rolling pin)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups oats
  • 8 ounces of chocolate, divided
  • 6 ounces mini marshmallows (okay, I didn't measure this)
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until they are smooth. Add the eggs one at a time. Top off with the vanilla.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture a little at a time, mixing with an electric mixer on low. This will prevent a dust storm.
  5. Fold in the oats using a rubber spatula.
  6. Press half of the oats mixture into the square pan. Use the rubber spatula to press it into the pan to fill the square shape.
  7. Top with a layer of chocolate chips (I didn't measure this either). Add your layer of marshmallows.
  8. The next part is tricky. Add the remaining oat mixture to the pan. I found this was best achieved by taking a spatula-full at a time and pressing it on top of the marshmallow layer instead of trying to spread it. 
  9. Once that's done, top with another layer of chocolate chips.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes or until firm. Allow to cool before cutting and serving. Totally a breakfast food. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Cherry Ice Cream

We are quickly approaching a difficult juncture: the split between summer and fall. For the fall-fanatics, good news: pumpkin beer is back! For the summer-lovers, good news: pumpkin spice lattes aren't back until after Labor Day! As always happens, this summer went by far too quickly. I never wrote out my official summer bucket list but I feel like not enough beach trips happened and I didn't make it to the cape. But I did make some ice cream, so there's that.

Before the return of cider donuts and pumpkin everything, let's enjoy some homemade ice cream, one more time. To make it extra-summery, let's use some summer fruit: cherries! Apparently these are already becoming a scarce commodity. So sad.

I want to try this ice cream again with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream but we're using a whole lotta thick dairy today. Sour cream, heavy cream and condensed milk are our dairy of choice. Cherries and sugar are simmered with a touch of Amaretto and a split vanilla bean (we're getting fancy). This mixture is then added to our dairy in a large bowl, stirred to pink perfection.

I have mixed feelings about ice cream makers. I'm not sure what is meant to happen when I pour my ice cream base into the frozen bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer and let it churn. Does it get thicker? Does it look like ice cream? I end up freezing the mix for a day anyways, why can't I just put it directly in the freezer? I probably could but for directions' sake, use your ice cream maker. Or just stick your mix in the freezer and serve the next day.

Regardless, this is very creamy. You can taste the sour cream but not in a weird way, in a surprisingly tart manner.

from Not Without Salt
  • 1 pound pitted cherries, cut into pieces
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 Tablespoons of Amaretto liquor
  • 1 can condensed sweetened milk
  • 1 16 ounce container of sour cream
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  1. I used a cherry pitter aka: cherry guiatine to remove the pits. Place the pitted/diced cherries in a saucepan with the vanilla bean, sugar, lemon juice and salt. Simmer over medium heat and bring a low boil for 10 minutes.
  2. After 10 minutes, remove from heat and stir in the Amaretto. Also remove the vanilla bean pod. Set aside to cool.
  3. While the fruit is cooling, combine the condensed milk, sour cream and heavy cream in a large bowl. I found it easiest to use a whisk for this process. 
  4. Once the fruit mixture has cooled, stir into the milk-sour cream-heavy cream mixture. This is where you get a pretty pink yogurt feel.
  5. Now, if you're feeling adventurous, pour into a container and freeze. If you have an ice cream maker, churn the mixture according to the machine's instructions and freeze overnight. I found that's how long it took to set completely but you could serve sooner if you'd like.