Healthy Apple and Dried Cherry Mini Muffins

The wonderful thing about kids is the fact that they are unpredictable. The challenging thing about kids is the fact that they are unpredictable.

There are times when I expect a negative reaction to a situation, and my girls will completely surprize me by showing a level of maturity that is beyond their years. Yes (smile), they are unpredictable.

One week something is an all-time favourite. The next week it is the worst thing ever. This is particularly the case when it comes to food. Yes (sigh), they are unpredictable.

But, I find that if you hold your ground, they eventually eat the dish or snack that you made for them. And I think they like it too . . . they just won’t admit it. (They get their stubborn streak from their father.) Otherwise they’d have a very unhealthy and boring food repetoire (think mac & cheese, pizza and grilled cheese). Somedays it wears you down, but it keeps me on my toes as I live in search of recipes that my ponytails will like.

These mini apple muffins went over well last week, which made me very happy since they are made with lots of healthy bits, such as apples, oats, dried cherries and sesame seeds. They were perfect to send to school for snacks, since they are nut-free, but still have some crunch to them from the sesame seeds. I guiltlessly ate quite a few myself because they are made with very little fat–only 2 tablespoons of canola oil for the entire batch. They ranked right up there with the Blueberry and Banana Muffins that I wrote about in my very first post.

I keep wondering how many more years until the girls become more adventurous about their food–the way they were when they were really little and weren’t influenced by the kids menu at restaurants? Is there cause for optimism?

Healthy Apple Breakfast Muffins

Slightly adapted from Style at Home Magazine

  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1 cup plain fat-free yogurt (I used 1%)
  • 2 cups grated peeled apple
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup fat-free milk (I used 1%)
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2/3 firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375°
  • Combine the oats and yogurt in a medium bowl and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Whisk together the apple, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla in a separate bowl.
  • Add the apple mixture to the yogurt mixture and stir to blend.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  • Pour the yogurt mixture over the dry ingredients and sprinkle with the dried cherries and sesame seeds.
  • Stir until just combined.
  • Spoon the mixture into a mini muffn tin and bake for 15-18 minutes, until the tops are brown. If using regular sized muffin tin, bake for 35 minutes.

Notes:

  • For tips on making mini muffins, see my original post.

Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

During any given activity throughout the day–whether it’s buying a coffee, standing in line at the bank or boarding a plane–if you stop and look around you’ll no doubt see several people around you reading their messages on their smart phones.  Guess it is not surprising that 2.8 million emails are sent every second.

I read an article on a recent flight that underscored the importance of “disconnecting” while on vacation–that we need to savour each moment and not worry about “reporting” on the moment through social media, so that we can participate fully in our “real-life” relationships.

Can you tell that I took this message to heart? It helps to explain why I haven’t been posting and commenting recently. I’ve just returned from a week’s vacation in cottage country and I was “unplugged” for most of the week. (Okay, I did spend an hour one day commenting while the kids where kayaking with their dad.)

Now that I’m recharged (and excited to get cooking again) I want to share this Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova recipe with you. I make it every summer and it is always a crowd favourite. I made it a few weeks a go for a farewell dinner for our good friends who moved back to Israel after living in Canada for four years. We had a wonderful night, even though it was very sad to say good-bye. I’ll think of them whenever I make this pavlova from now on.

The best part about this pavlova is the fudgey chocolately centre that is quite unexpected the first time you take a bite. It’s the reason that the ponytails LOVE this dessert!

 

Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

 Very slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson, Forever Summer

 For the chocolate meringue base:

  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder, sieved
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

 For the topping:

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 12 – 18 oz raspberries (2 to 3 containers; 6 ounces each)
  • 2-3 tbsp grated semi-sweet or dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 350° and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites until peaks form and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle over the cocoa and vinegar, and the chopped chocolate. Then gently fold everything until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in.

Heap the meringue mixture on to a baking sheet in a 9 inch circle, smoothing the sides and top.

Place in the oven, then immediately lower temperature to 300° and cook for 60 to 75 minutes. It should look crisp around the edges and be dry on top. It is slightly squishy when you push down on the top. Turn the oven off and open the door slightly and let cool completely.

To serve, place the meringue on a large flat-bottomed plate. Whisk the whipping cream until thick. Add sugar. Pile the whipped cream on top of meringue, then add the raspberries. Grate the chocolate over the top.

NOTES:

  • Don’t forget to turn the oven down to 300° when you put the pavlova in the oven!
  • I’ve made this several times each summer for many years now and the meringue always cracks. Don’t worry, it still looks great once you add the whipped cream and raspberries.
  • Be sure to wash the raspberries well in advance of making this and place them on a paper towel to dry. This will ensure that the raspberries don’t run when you place them on the whipped cream.
  • I used 2 containers of raspberries this time, but normally I like to use 3 so that the raspberries are densely piled on the pavlova.
  • I also usually grate the chocolate into curls, but I was in a hurry to serve this and just finely grated the chocolate. The chocolate curls look more impressive, if you have time.

O Canada Cobbler

To my fellow Canadians, a belated Happy Canada Day; to my American neighbours, an early Happy 4th of July; and to everyone else, a right-on-time Happy July!

It has been a glorious long weekend here in Toronto. We like to stay in town for the July long weekend as it’s a great opportunity to chillax and avoid the five- or six-hour drive on the clogged highways as thousands of Torontonians head for the hills.

For the past few years, we’ve gotten together with our good friends who live in “The Beach” (as it is known in Toronto) on Canada Day weekend. We met our friends Laura and Kevin as frightened first-time parents-to-be at our pre-natal classes when we were expecting ponytail #1. Our oldest girls are born a week apart and they’ve been getting together for playdates and birthdays since they were three months old. (We like to say that they were friends before they were born.) Now there are siblings and it’s fun to watch all the kids grow and see that they actually get along well whenever we get together.

I decided to make Cherry Cobbler for our annual get-together last night. Served with a scoop of good ole vanilla ice cream, this red and white dessert is the perfect way to celebrate our Canadian heritage. We ate all but one small scoop of cobbler–even the kids seemed to like it.

I first made this Cherry Cobbler for my friend Maryann when I stayed with her in Vancouver a number of years ago. She liked it so much that I made it about four times during my week-long stay. She raved about it to my other West Coast friend L’il Debs, so of course I had to make it for Debs and her husband Bruce the night I went there for dinner. Since then I’ve changed to a topping that is more biscuit-like, which I prefer.

If you decide to try this, you might find yourself making this again and again too!

Cherry Cobbler

Cherry base adapted from A Year in Niagara by Kathleen Sloan-McIntosh

For the cherry base:

  • 3 ½ cups cherries, stemmed and pitted
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a sauce pan, cook the cherries, butter and water over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Blend together sugar and flour. Add the flour mixture to the cherries in the saucepan, stirring to prevent lumps. Return this mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and cook for a minute or two until the sauce is thickened slightly. Transfer the mixture to a shallow 4-cup baking dish.

For the biscuit topping:

From Gourmet, September 1999

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ cup boiling water

Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarst meal. Stir in water until just combined.

Using large spoon, drop spoonfuls of the batter over the top of the fruit. Base for 25 minutes until golden brown.

Notes:

  • I made this in a 10″ cast-iron pan and baked it in the oven (as this was more convenient for me yesterday than cooking on the barbeque). I popped the cobbler onto the grill on low heat as we were finishing dinner. It was bubbling and ready to serve in no time.
  • To cook the cobbler on the grill, follow my directions from my Bumble Crumble in a Skillet.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cupcakes

Some days, brushing your teeth or getting to the office on time feels like you’re climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. You know those days?

Those are the days that you pray you have some left-overs in your freezer and that there’s something good on TV that night.

I’ve been having quite a few of “those days” lately. By the time I get both ponytails dropped off at daycare and make my way downtown on the subway (which never seems to be running on time), I’ve feel like I need to grab a stiff drink instead of just a coffee. I’m even more tired at the end of the day, so I’ve been sticking to the meals that I know are fast and easy– and I haven’t been trying many new dishes.

I did manage to find the energy to make Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cupcakes for my husband’s birthday. Peanut butter cups are his favourite and I’ve been looking for ways to incorporate them into my desserts (like the Moose Tracks Ice Cream Pie). This recipe was fun to make with the girls because they could peel the peanut butter cups from the wrappers and drop them into the batter at the right time. I think they were worth the effort. Isn’t is always worth the effort to make things for your family?

I also made my own frosting this time and I was glad that I gave this a try. I must tell you that I never have the meringue powder usually required to make buttercream frosting and I don’t like to use egg whites when kids will be eating them. That’s why I’ve always just used icing from a tin. So, when I found a buttercream recipe that didn’t require either ingredient, I just had to try it. You can make this without the peanut butter for an all around buttercream frosting.

Chocolate Cupcakes With PB Cups

(Makes 18) Adapted from allrecipes; by Ladan

  • 1 bag peanut butter cups miniatures (320 grams/12 oz)
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa and salt.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the oil and sugar until well incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition; add the vanilla. Alternate adding the flour mixture milk; beat well.
  3. Add one scoop of batter to each paper liner, then add one peanut butter cup and top with one more scoop of batter. Liner should be just under ¾ full. Repeat until batter all used.
  4. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker’s Easy Vanilla Bean Buttercream

  • 2½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2½ – 3 ½ cups icing sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 6 tbsp peanut butter

In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about a minute. Add 2½ cups icing sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully incorporated, about 30 seconds; scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 20 seconds. Add remaining one cup of icing sugar (if using) and beat until incorporated.  Then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice. Add peanut butter and beat on medium-high for one minute until well incorporated.

Frost the cupcakes when cool.

Top each cupcake with a piece of pb cup (Cut each pb cup in half; cut each half in thirds)

NOTES:

  • I used an Atecco 843 decorating tip (closed star). I bought it at Placewares in St. Lawrence Market.
  • I found that this buttercream frosting recipe was just enough for 18 cupcakes when piping the icing. It would make more than enough for icing by hand.
  • Be sure to peel the paper liners off the cupcakes carefully, as the pb cup may stick to the bottom on the odd cupcake if you don’t peel carefully.
  • Given that there are so many nut allergies out there, I wouldn’t recommend making these cupcakes with peanut butter for a kids party. However, you could easily omit the peanut butter cups in the cupcakes and the peanut butter in the frosting.
  • I like the consistency of the buttercream with the extra cup of icing sugar added (35 cups in total).

The Banana Bread Switch Up

You are in desperate need of a coffee. You head to the cupboard to grab some filters—but they are not there. You can feel the panic rising as you look in another cupboard, then another. Finally, success…there they are right next to the Cheese Whiz. That’s funny, you didn’t put them there. You breathe a sigh of relief as the coffee brews. Now, just grab a mug and…what the hell, where are the mugs?

I’m sure that this is the scenario (or one very similar) that played out many years ago for my mom. I had just started my first full-time professional job (the one where I met Eva of Kitchen Inspirations) and I had moved in with mom so that I could get my financial feet on the ground. First thing I did was completely rearrange her kitchen.

Need I point out that she wasn’t impressed? Mom was particularly upset when she discovered that several of the items she needed hadn’t just been “relocated”—they’d been thrown in the garbage. I’d like to blame it on my youth—the verve of my adventurous twenties—but I can’t.

I’m just that way. I like to switch things up. You know, make them my own. I know that I’m destined to get what’s coming to me one day soon, as I have two very spirited and strong-willed ponytails.

But until then, I continue to switch things up—particularly with my mom’s recipes. This time, it’s her much-loved banana bread recipe. (It has quite a following with the after-church social crowd at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.) Although, this time I don’t think she will be mad at me—I didn’t throw anything out.

Mom’s Original Banana Bread

  • 1-½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions

  1. Mix dry ingredients (flour, salt and baking soda) in small bowl and set aside.
  2. Mix wet ingredients (bananas, sugar, egg, butter and vanilla) in large bowl. Add dry ingredients and mix well.
  3. Pour batter into greased loaf pan.
  4. Bake at 350° for 45 – 50 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

#1 Switch Up: Whole Wheat Butterscotch Banana Bread

  1. Replace 1-½  cups all purpose flour with ¾ cup of all purpose flour and ¾ whole wheat flour.
  2. Add ½ cup butterscotch chips after completing step 2 in directions for Mom’s Original Banana Bread and mix well.
  3. Follow steps 3 and 4 of same directions.

#2 Switch Up: Marbled Chocolate and Peanut Butter Banana Bread

  1. Prepare Mom’s Original Banana Bread batter.
  2. Divide batter in half, placing second half in a new bowl.
  3. Add 2 tbsps of peanut butter to first half of batter and mix well.
  4. Add  2-½  tbsps cocoa powder to second half of batter and mix well
  5. Pour chocolate batter in half of greased loaf pan.
  6. Then, pour peanut butter batter in other half of greased pan.
  7. Using a knife or skewer, pull and swirl chocolate batter through peanut butter batter until you are happy with the marbled effect.
  8. Bake at 350° for 45 – 50 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Chocolate and Black Beans – Original or Common?

You may be starting to sense a chocolate theme in my recent posts. Well, this fascination with chocolate all started two weeks ago when my husband Kevin and I went to dinner at Victor Restaurant here in Toronto. The restaurant offers an Iron Chef dinner option, where you select a feature ingredient and they prepare a five-course dinner battle around that ingredient. Each chef or cook in the Victor Kitchen prepares a different course and you rank each of the courses based on four criteria. At the end of the meal, you tally up your scores and the chef or cook’s dish with the highest ranking wins. Doesn’t that sound fun?

So it’ll come as no surprise that we chose chocolate as our theme ingredient. That’s right—five glorious courses each prepared with chocolate in some shape or fashion. I’m going to summarize each of the dishes at the end of this post, but I want to start by telling you about our first course and how it inspired today’s recipe.

We started with: Chocolate Soup with Black Bean Salsa, topped with Crispy Pumpkin Seeds, Cilantro and Crispy Pork Belly and Tortilla Strips. As we tasted the delicious soup, Kevin started to work on his rankings and I have to say he was taking it all very seriously. When he got to the “how original or authentic was the dish” category, he started to talk about how the flavours were the same as my chili (which has a bit of chocolate in it) so he felt it wasn’t that original. I countered that it was in fact original for a savory chocolate soup to have those same flavours. Out came his BlackBerry, followed by a Google search on “chocolate and beans.” Well, this resulted in hundreds of black bean brownie recipes—but no chocolate and black bean soup recipes. In the end, Kevin still felt it wasn’t that original because obviously the chocolate and black bean combination was pretty popular in the form of brownies. So tell me, what do you think? Was this an authentic/original dish—or a common one? Which one of us was right?

I decided on the spot that I would make a Black Bean Brownie recipe for you as a tribute to this amazing dinner and our lively dinner debate. I whipped up a batch right away, altering the recipe a bit as I went along. The brownies were super easy to make and surprisingly tasty. The ponytails didn’t suspect for a minute that the brownies were made with beans. There you have it—flourless Chocolate Black Bean Brownies! Who knew? (Apparently the hundreds of people who have blogged about black bean brownies…)

Black Bean Brownies

Adapted from Allrecipies.com (Canada) by Elizabeth

  • 1 15.5 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp instant coffee (optional)
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (I used milk and white chocolate swirl chips)

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Lightly grease an 8” x 8” square baking dish.

3. Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips in a blender and blend until smooth.

4. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.

5. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the top of dish.

6. Bake in preheated oven until top is dry and edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.

Victor Restaurant (at Hotel Le Germain, Toronto)

Iron Chef Dinner — Theme Ingredient: Chocolate

Dish 1:   Chocolate Soup with Black Bean Salsa, topped with Crispy Pumpkin Seeds, Cilantro and Crispy Pork Belly and Tortilla Strips (Total score 34 out of 40; each of us could award up to 20 points, with up to 5 points in 4 categories)

Dish 2:   Lobster and Scallops with White Chocolate Velouté in Puff Pastry (Total score 40 out of 40; THE WINNER of the Challenge; prepared by the Salad Cook and apparently his 1st win!)

Dish 3:   Duck and Soba Noodles, with Chocolate, Mushrooms and Bacon in a Cocoa Butter Sauce (Total score 33 out of 40)

Dish 4:   Organic Beef Tenderloin, White Chocolate Potatoes Purée, Spinach, Pickled Onion and Beets, with Cocoa Sauce drizzled on the side (Total score 38 out of 40)

Dish 5:   Flourless Chocolate Cake, Brandied Cherries, Chocolate Ice Cream, and Chocolate Truffles with Crushed Praline (Total score 33 out of 40)

Essentially Victor’s five chefs/cooks created this menu just for us, as we were the only ones in the restaurant participating in the Iron Chef dinner that night. It was an absolutely unique and delicious dining experience that we both LOVED. I highly recommend the Iron Chef Dinner Challenge at Victor Restaurant. However, you must book your Iron Chef dinner well in advance when you provide them with your theme ingredient. It was $80 per person for the meal, and $40 per person for the wine pairings.


Two BFFs: Sweet and Salty

Bad or good; ugly or beautiful; sweet or salty—conventional wisdom has taught us that if one of these qualities holds true, then the opposite is automatically untrue. And then along came Thai cuisine into the mainstream a number of years ago, to teach us that sweet and salty can co-exist in mouth-wateringly delicious ways. Now it seems that we think nothing of adding salt to our caramels and other sweet confections.

This cookie bar recipe will show you that not only can sweet and salty get along well—they can in fact be BFFs. They get along so well that they are dangerous. Yes, these cookie bars are that good. It is dangerous for me to be alone with them, as they are dangerously good. Just ask the colleague who had one at our company pot luck last week. She chased me as I was picking up my Tupperware container, so that she could have the leftover crumbs. Yes, they are dangerous.

The credit for this recipe goes to Maria from Two Peas and Their Pod. (Her photos of these cookie bars are way better than my pic!) I didn’t change a thing because the recipe was perfect as is. I highly recommend this recipe, as these bars are super easy to make and a sure-fire hit for any pot-luck lunch or night home alone.

Chocolate Chip Salted Caramel Cookie Bars

  • 2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 12 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 10 ounces caramel candy squares, unwrapped (about 35 caramels by my calculations)
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Sea salt, for sprinkling over caramel and bars

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 2-quart baking pan (11 x 8 glass Pyrex dish).

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the melted butter and sugars together until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix on low, just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4. In a large microwave safe bowl, combine the caramels and heavy cream. Microwave caramels on High until caramels are melted, stirring every 20 to 25 seconds. This will take about 2 minutes, depending on your microwave.

5. Divide the cookie dough in half. Press half of the cookie dough into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the spatula. Pour hot caramel over the cookie dough. Sprinkle caramel with sea salt. Drop spoonfuls of cookie dough over the caramel and spread dough with a spatula until the caramel is covered. Sprinkle the bars with additional sea salt.

6.Bake cookie bars for 30 minutes or until the top of the bars are light golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan. Cool bars on a wire rack to room temperature. Cut bars into squares and serve.


Chocolate & Zucchini Eat Quick Bread

I’ve finally managed to break free from my Banana Bread rut. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing like a slice of really good Banana Bread. The ponytails just love it and it is a great way to use up my never-ending pile of over-ripe bananas each weekend. But after a few months, the love starts to fade a bit.

I bought some zucchini to use in a veggie chili that I made recently and had a large zucchini left over. Then I realized it was time to start making room for another kind of loaf in my life.

I baked this bread on Saturday afternoon after my daughters’ swimming lessons, and the moans of hunger from the girls started about 10 minutes before I removed it from the oven. As soon as the loaf was cool enough to handle, I sliced and served a piece to each of them. When I turned around, I discovered that half the loaf was gone. In my house, you have to eat fast if you want to get your share. So, I think that this loaf is appropriately named. However, I might have also called it Chocolate & Zucchini Take Photo Quick Bread – since it was disappearing faster than the money in my wallet after payday. My husband Kevin has pointed out that I need to be patient, as the family is still getting used to this whole “cook and click” routine and that a picture of a partial loaf proves that it is a good recipe. Hopefully you agree?

Chocolate & Zucchini Eat Quick Bread

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup cocoa, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ¼ cup sour cream (I used 1%)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups grated zucchini

Preheat oven to 350° and grease 9 ½” x 5 ½” loaf pan.

In medium bowl whisk together eggs, sugar, oil, sour cream and vanilla. In a second bowl, stir together the two flours, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Add zucchini and mix well. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes (until inserted toothpick comes out clean). Remove from the pan and cool on a rack.

TIP:

  • Walnuts and/or chocolate chips would be a great addition to this recipe (1/2 cup). I didn’t add the nuts because the loaf is this week’s school snack. I also wanted the zucchini to be the star of the show so I held back on the chocolate chips this time.

Itty Bitty Bites

Even though you may end up eating three or more (like 20), there’s something about a bite-sized treat that makes you feel like you’re being really, really good. So if you’ve never made mini muffins or cupcakes, don’t you think that it’s time to try something new? I promise you’ll never look back.

You can convert any muffin or cupcake recipe to “minis” by cutting the baking time. The rule of thumb is 12-15 minutes at 350° for a standard muffin or cupcake recipe.

Here’s a blueberry-banana muffin recipe I just had to try because it’s healthy (can you say fibre?) and because I needed some school snacks for my little Grade One ponytail. Oh, and did I mention that I have about 100 very ripe bananas in my freezer, along with the large haul of blueberries we picked this summer. I need to clear out my freezer in preparation for cookie season, which is just around the corner.

If you’re like me before making this recipe, wheat germ isn’t something sitting in your cupboard. It’s worth getting for this recipe, as you’ll make it again (they really are good) and I have a recipe for healthy granola bars that also calls for wheat germ, so I’ll post it soon.

Tips:

  • Buy a timer! It’ll become your best friend in the kitchen.
  • Always set your timer for the low-end of the baking time listed and check to see if your goodies are done. If not, you can always bake a little longer but over-cooking can’t be undone.
  • When you bake something for the first time, write the final baking time on a post-it note and stick it to the recipe for next time.
  • Invest in a 24-mini muffin pan. It’ll save you time in the long run, as you’ll only need to bake two pans for a standard muffin/cupcake recipe which usually makes about 30 mini muffins/cupcakes. I bought mine for under $10 at HomeSense.

 

Scrumptious Blueberry & Banana Muffins

(Makes about 30 mini muffins or 12 regular)

Janet and Greta Podleski, published in TogetherFamily.ca

  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats (not instant)
  • ½ cup each all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup wheat germ
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (approx. 3)
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 375° F. Spray a 24-mini muffin tin and half of a 12-mini muffin tin with cooking spray and set aside (or use your 24-cup muffin tin twice).

Combine oats, both flours, wheat germ, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Mix well and set aside.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together bananas, egg and melted butter. Add banana mixture to dry ingredients and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Gently fold in blueberries.

Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake for approx 13 or 14 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. (Note: If making 12 regular sized muffins, bake for 20 minutes)