Carrot-Zucchini Muffins

Carrot-Zucchini MuffinsI’m such an optimist when it comes to meal planning. I start every week with the best of intentions, picking up a ton of fresh produce. Tomatoes and avocados go quickly around here, being tossed with pesto or mashed into guacamole or served on toast. Greens go with fried eggs or are made into a huge salad with any odds and ends I have in the fridge. But no matter what I do, something gets forgotten.

Carrot-Zucchini MuffinsLast week, it was nearly a pound of carrots and a few zucchini. I made some into hash browns (recipe coming soon!), but I can only eat so many of those in a week. Instead of letting good produce sit in the fridge for another day or two, I turned to my go-to Zucchini Bread recipe.

Carrot-Zucchini MuffinsIn addition to being delicious, these Carrot-Zucchini Muffins are a little more nutritious than your average breakfast pastry. For one, they’re made with shredded carrots and zucchini—there’s a full 1/4 cup of vegetables in every serving!

Carrot-Zucchini MuffinsThe batter can certainly be made with only all-purpose flour, but I like to use half whole wheat flour here. Where using all whole wheat flour has the potential to make things dry and crumbly if not handled properly, using it in a 50/50 ratio with all-purpose keeps everything nice and soft. The resulting muffins have a nutty whole grain flavor and fluffy interiors—the best of both worlds.  

Carrot-Zucchini MuffinsCarrot-Zucchini Muffins are pretty low in sugar, coming in at less than a tablespoon per serving. While adding a few more tablespoons of sugar could certainly amp up the flavor, 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg basically do the same thing without adding to the calorie count.

Carrot-Zucchini MuffinsIf you’re looking to get some extra vegetables into your family this summer, this is one easy way to do it. These muffins have all that carrot and zucchini, a bit of whole grain, and with such minimal sugar, seconds are encouraged. Also, they freeze like a dream—just pop a frozen muffin in the microwave for 45 seconds or so. Served alongside a glass of Cold Brew, eating your vegetables has never been so delicious.Carrot-Zucchini Muffins

Carrot-Zucchini Muffins
makes 12 standard Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (or white whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup neutral-flavored oil (I use canola)
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots, not packed (about 3 medium carrots)
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini, not packed (about 2 medium zucchini)

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners, or grease well. Set aside.

In a medium-large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oil and brown sugar. Add eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla. Whisk in dry ingredients in two installments, mixing just until combined. Fold in shredded carrots and zucchini. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Tap full pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles.

Bake 5 minutes before reducing the heat to 350F for another 12-14 minutes. Muffins are ready when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to five.

To freeze, place cooled muffins on a baking sheet and freeze for 2 hours. Transfer to a labeled freezer bag. Store in the freezer for up to three months. To thaw, place in the refrigerator overnight or microwave for 45 seconds-1 minute.

Whole Wheat Pie Dough

Whole Wheat Pie DoughI have a lot of feelings about pie crust. Namely, that it should be easy, homemade, have defined flaky layers, and be insanely delicious. No hard, crunchy, cardboard-flavored crusts for me, thanks.

Whole Wheat Pie DoughWhole Wheat Pie DoughNow, I have a pie crust that is all these things and more. Yes, my Cream Cheese Pie Dough is perfection, as far as I’m concerned. And what’s not to love? The dough is simple to make and never, ever tears during rolling. It goes well with sweet and savory applications. It has so many layers that I have had friends comment that it’s akin to having a pie wrapped in croissant dough. And it really is delicious.

I could go on and on about that crust all day. Really, I could. But as much as I love it, sometimes I just need a change.

Whole Wheat Pie DoughWhole Wheat Pie DoughEnter this Whole Wheat Pie Dough. It has all the ease, flakiness, and versatility of my beloved Cream Cheese Pie Dough, but with a rich whole wheat flavor. It might sound a little odd, the idea of a pie made with a whole grain crust, but trust me when I say that it’s shockingly good. The combination of sweet, jammy fruit and nubbly wheat crust–let’s just say it’s the dessert you never knew you wanted.

If you don’t believe me, just wait–I have a Strawberry Rhubarb Galette coming your way tomorrow 😊🍓Whole Wheat Pie Dough

Whole Wheat Pie Dough
makes two 9-inch pie crusts

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or white whole wheat flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into cubes
2/3-3/4 cup buttermilk, very cold

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add cold butter, and use a handheld pastry blender to cut it into the dry ingredients until the smallest pieces are the size of large peas. Pour in 1/2 cup cold buttermilk and stir with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until clumps form. Add more buttermilk by the tablespoon, as necessary. Put your hands* in the bowl to knead the mixture until it comes together. Form the dough into two discs, and wrap them individually in plastic wrap. Chill for one hour, or up to two days.

Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Take one disc of dough out of the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place it on the surface. Press the dough with the rolling pin. Roll it in one direction 3-4 times, and then turn it 90 degrees. Roll in one direction 3-4 times. Repeat rolling and turning until dough is at least 12 inches in diameter, dusting with more flour as necessary to prevent sticking.

Fold dough in quarters, and place in a pie plate with the scraggly edges hanging over the outside of the pan. Unfold the dough to fill the pan. Trim the excess to 1/2 inch. Fill crust with filling and chill for at least 15 minutes. From here, there are two options.

For a single crust pie, crimp the edges, and brush them with additional buttermilk. and bake at 375F for 45 minutes to one hour, covering the crust with foil halfway through. Let cool at least three hours.

For a double crust pie, roll out the top crust the same way that you did the bottom crust. Cut into strips for a lattice,* or leave whole to cover the whole pie. Trim the excess to 1/2 inch. Crimp the edges, then chill for 15 minutes. Brush the crust with additional buttermilk. Cut vents if the top crust is whole. Bake at 375F for 45 minutes to one hour. Let cool for at least three hours.

Notes:

If your hands are warm, run them under cold water for thirty seconds (and then dry them) before kneading.

Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Chip Bars

Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Chip BarsOne of these days, I’m going to get some sleep. I’ve been up before the sun for the last three days to do volunteer work, and in addition to my work schedule and attempt to have a social life, it’s made me into a little bit of a zombie (the good kind, who can’t put sentences together but has cookies).

They say that if you want something done, you should ask a busy person. In my experience, this is absolutely true. I do well when I have an extensive to-do list, but once I get on a roll, I have a hard time saying “no.” When you work 12-16 hours everyday, what’s the harm in adding an extra cake order or volunteering to do service at 6:30am, even though you haven’t gotten a full eight hours of sleep in a month? The days and weeks run together, and suddenly you can’t remember the last time you took a full day off.

Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Chip BarsI have reached this point, and with nothing that I have to do this weekend (yet), I am really hoping to spend Saturday and Sunday eating takeout and watching Netflix. Will this actually happen? Who knows. But it’s giving me something to dream about while I skitter around Brooklyn checking things off my to-do list.

When I am super busy, I have to find ways to keep my energy up without consuming too much caffeine. I stick to two large coffees per day–if I have more than that, it will be impossible for me to sleep at night. Instead, I try to eat a lot of nutrient-dense foods throughout the day. Lately, it’s been a lot of huge green smoothies and small, high-protein meals. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been baking and eating treats–it’s my job, after all.

Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Chip BarsThese Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Chip Bars are my new favorite thing. They’re soft and chewy, like a combination between a blondie and a muffin, with a pronounced banana flavor and chocolate in every bite! And they’re just the slightest bit healthier than your average cookie. These bars are made with white whole wheat flour and old-fashioned oats, so they’re completely whole grain. I also cut the sugar in this recipe, but rest assured that they still taste like dessert!

Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Chip Bars are a wonderful way to end the day (I highly recommend having one warm with vanilla ice cream), but they’re also great for tucking into school lunches or carrying with you for a snack while you’re on the go. Just because you’re super busy doesn’t mean you can’t take two minutes to treat yourself, right?!

Looking for more whole grain recipes? Check out these Whole Grain Cranberry-Orange Snack Bars and Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Chip Bars
makes one 9-inch pan, about 16 bars

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (or regular whole wheat flour)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 very ripe medium banana, mashed
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9-inch square pan, line it with parchment, and butter it again. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together white whole wheat flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in dark brown sugar, followed by banana, egg yolk, and vanilla. Mix in flour mixture until completely combined. Beat in oats followed by chocolate chips.
Spread batter in prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. Place the full pan on a rack and let cool completely. Chill bars for 30-60 minutes before slicing.

Bars will keep covered at room temperature for up to five days.

Tropical Cashew Granola

 It’s officially summer, and I can’t wait to get to the beach. I’m only four weeks away from a trip to Maine with a bunch of friends–it can’t get here soon enough! It’s super woodsy and we definitely won’t see any palm trees, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be eating tons of tropical fruit while we’re up there.

How, you may ask, will we have tropical fruit in the wilds of Maine? In the form of my new favorite granola! 
Yes, I am that person who packs homemade granola into her luggage. And why wouldn’t I? It’s full of whole grains, nuts, and fruit, so it’s super satisfying. It’s also refined sugar-free, gluten free, and vegan, so this is one recipe that will fit all my friends’ various dietary needs.

Between easy breakfasts and snacks, I know we will go through the full two-quart batch in no time. I mean, who can resist this Tropical Cashew Granola?! It’s loaded with dried mango and pineapple, toasted coconut, and cashews–perfect for any day at the beach. 
Normally, I am not a huge fan of dried fruit (especially in granola), but I make exceptions for dried mango and pineapple. I’ll eat a whole six-ounce bag in a day! The sweet mango, tangy pineapple, and toasted coconut work incredibly well with the crunchy oats and cashews. A moderate amount of sweetener and a full teaspoon of salt keep it all just sweet enough to enjoy with your favorite yogurt and fresh fruit. I can’t get enough. 

Having made a lot of granola in the last few years, I can tell you that the homemade stuff is a snap to put together and infinitely better than any boxed variety. When you make something from scratch, you can control the ingredients and customize it to your taste.

For instance, I love my Maple Pecan Granola (which I used as the base for this recipe), but sometimes I want my granola to have more clusters than that recipe allows. So, I took the basic formula and swapped half the maple syrup for brown rice syrup. It’s super thick and allows the oats and cashews to cluster a bit without adding excessive amounts sweetener. And since brown rice syrup has a mild flavor, the maple is still front and center!

Tropical Cashew Granola is like summer in a bowl! Don’t be surprised if the combination of mango, pineapple, coconut, and buttery cashews has you packing a jar for your vacation, too! 

  Looking for more granola? Check out my Peanut Butter Granola!

Tropical Cashew Granola
makes about two quarts

1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup brown rice syrup*
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups raw unsalted cashews, chopped
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
6 ounces unsweetened dried mango, chopped into bite-size pieces
6 ounces unsweetened dried pineapple, chopped into bite-size pieces

Preheat oven to 300F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, and salt. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in oats, cashews, and coconut. Spread mixture on prepared pan. Bake 40 minutes, stirring at the 15 and 30 minute marks to prevent burning.

When granola is done baking, let cool five minutes before stirring in dried mango and pineapple pieces. Let granola cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three weeks.

Note:

Brown rice syrup can be found near the honey and syrups at most well-stocked grocery stores, or on Amazon. If you cannot find it or do not wish to use it, you may use an equal volume of mild honey or maple syrup. Your granola will not have many clusters, but it will still be delicious.

Hummingbird Muffins

 Have you ever had Hummingbird Cake? If you aren’t from the south, there’s a good chance you haven’t. It’s a southern specialty, first published in Southern Living magazine in 1978 (and still their most requested recipe). It’s like carrot cake, but decidedly tropical–a spice cake full of banana, pineapple, coconut, and pecans, topped with cream cheese frosting. Oh, is it ever good. And with all that tropical fruit, it’s perfect for summer.

Warning: once you try Hummingbird Cake, you’ll want it all the time. Even for breakfast.

And really, why not?! I mean, there’s fruit in there. And nuts–hello, protein! But there’s also a lot of sugar, and frosting simply is not breakfast food…unless you’re having cinnamon rolls ☺️ And so, to satisfy my early-morning need for tropical spice cake, I took all the flavors of the southern classic and put them in a batch of muffins. And I swapped the frosting for a pecan streusel, just to make them appropriate for scarfing down at 7am.

The base for these Hummingbird Muffins is a riff on my favorite banana bread. I got the idea to soup-up the batter from my Insta-friend and fellow blogger, Megan. She took her favorite vegan banana muffins and made them into Hummingbird Cupcakes! Her idea is absolute genius, and when I was developing this recipe, I just had to steal it 😊 

 

The muffin base is soft and moist, a little nutty from the addition of white whole wheat flour, and full of cinnamon and banana flavors. It’s a simple no-mixer recipe that I absolutely swear by. Here, the batter is filled with crushed pineapple, sweetened shredded coconut, and chopped pecans before being spooned into muffin cups, topped with an easy pecan streusel, and baked until domed and golden brown.

Hummingbird Muffins are the best way to have cake for breakfast. Full of whole grain, cinnamon, fruit, and nuts, they’re healthy enough to grab for a quick breakfast, and delicious enough to keep you coming back for seconds. 

 Hummingbird Muffins
makes 14-16 standard muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour*
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup coconut oil,* melted
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup milk of choice*
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup canned crushed pineapple in juice (not drained)
2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
2/3 cup pecans, chopped (optional)

Streusel:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup pecans, chopped (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold

Preheat oven to 425F. Grease a standard muffin pan or line with muffin liners.

In a medium-large mixing bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, white whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together melted coconut oil, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Add eggs one at a time, combining completely after each addition. Whisk in vanilla, followed by mashed bananas, crushed pineapple, and milk.

Add dry ingredients to wet, and use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to stir them together–no more than 20 strokes. Add coconut and pecans, and stir five additional strokes. Fill each muffin cup all the way to the top.

Make the streusel. In a small mixing bowl, use a fork to stir together flour, light brown sugar, pecans, cinnamon, and salt. Use a pastry blender (or two forks) to cut cold butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Place about 1 tablespoon of streusel on top of each filled muffin cup.

Tap full pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Place full pan in the oven. Bake for five minutes. Without opening the oven door, turn the oven temperature down to 375F and bake an additional 17-18 minutes. Tent with foil if anything starts to brown too quickly. Muffins are ready when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let muffins cool in pan for at least five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Pan should return to room temperature before you bake any remaining batter.

Serve muffins immediately, or keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

Notes:
1. White whole wheat flour may be replaced with an equal volume of whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour.
2. Melted coconut oil may be replaced with an equal volume of neutral-flavored oil, such as canola or vegetable.
3. I use whole milk, but 1% or 2% milk will also work. I do not recommend skim or fat free cow’s milk. You may also use a non-dairy milk.