Mini Zucchini Muffins

imageSpeaking of fresh produce… having my own garden at home has afforded me TONS of naturally grown, raw veggies to use in my cooking. Squash and zucchini are always abundant during the late summer months; we’ve practically got them coming out of our ears! My autumn motto has quickly become “A zucchini a day keeps the doctor away.”

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I’ve managed to find some pretty creative ways to use these colorful gourd varieties, from zucchini noodles to sauteed zucchini and even zucchini nachos. One of my favorite techniques not only uses a lot of this healthy ingredient, it is also cleverly disguised by sugar and spices: baking with grated zucchini!

The first time I tried this recipe was with the after-school cooking program I helped to run for first through eighth graders in suburban Chicago. It yields enough of these bit-sized and flavorful muffins to feed an army, works great even at high altitude (now that I’m back in mountainous Colorado) and is super easy and fun to make with kids! I’ll definitely be keeping this one around for years to come.

Mini Zucchini Muffins

(Makes 3 dozen 1-oz mini muffins)

  • image (2)2 large eggs
  • 1⁄2 cup white sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1⁄2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease muffin pans or prepare them with baking cups.

image (1)Whisk 2 eggs; add sugar and oil. Beat until all three ingredients are well incorporated and mixture is very smooth. Mix in vanilla and zucchini. Slowly add flour, whisking until there are no flour lumps. Add remaining ingredients. Mix until batter is smooth (other than zucchini!).

Pour into prepped pans and bake for 15 minutes. To check for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the muffin—it’s done if the toothpick comes out clean.

Namas-tasty!

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Mini Baked Brie, Pear and Pecan Tarts

2013-12-26 12.32.53In my old age (HAH, good one right?!), I have really come to appreciate a good glass of wine. We all know that a glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away, and I recently found an article from Health magazine that boasts even more health benefits of delicious vino. According to the article, regular consumption might help keep the pounds off, reduce forgetfulness, boost immunity, and prevent bone loss.

This being said, I fully support and regularly partake in wine & cheese nights (no surprise, I’m sure, since I have also previously mentioned my affinity for cheese). I wanted to add a little extra flavor to the most recent event I hosted (and, I’ll admit, I wanted to impress my guests by putting in a little more effort than simply setting out some cheese and crackers), so I whipped up some of these delicious savory/sweet mini tarts. The melted Brie and pear blend together inside of the puff pastry, and the nutty pecan and slightly sour balsamic drizzle on the outside make for a deliciously complex combination of flavors in every bite.

2013-12-26 12.30.31Mini Baked Brie, Pear and Pecan Tarts

adapted from Unsophisticook.com

  • 1 pkg. (9.5-oz.) Puff Pastry Cups (the only ones I was able to find at my grocery store were Pepperidge Farm® brand)
  • 8 oz. Brie cheese, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 lg. pear, diced
  • whole pecans, toasted
  • balsamic vinegar

Prepare the puff pastry cups according to the package directions.

Turn the oven to down 350 degrees. Remove the “tops” from the pastry puffs and fill the inside with a piece of Brie cheese and some diced pears. Return the tops to each of the pastries and place them on a baking sheet. Bake for about 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

2013-12-26 12.33.52Let the pastry cups cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Top with a whole toasted pecan and drizzle balsamic vinegar over the top.

Namas-tasty!