Monday, July 27, 2009

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

Did I mention we have a lot of zucchini????  We love zucchini bread, but I felt like trying something different today.  I whipped up these muffins and they were a huge hit.  To make them into cupcakes, simply slather them with some yummy cream cheese frosting.  (A note on the baking time- my oven bakes very quickly, be sure to adjust baking time to your own oven.) This recipe yielded 12 regular muffins and 24 mini-muffins.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

3 cups flour (I used 2 cups Trader Joe's White Whole Wheat Flour and 1 cup All Purpose)
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
3 cups grated zucchini (2 medium, approximately)
2/3 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Line cups of a muffin tin (2 12 cup tins or 1 12 cup and 1 24 mini-muffin or...)

2.  Mix together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.

3.  In another bowl, combine zucchini, oil, eggs, and vanilla; add to flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Fold chocolate chips in (do not overmix).  

4.  Divide batter evenly among cups.  Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean (my large muffins baked for 25 mins, my mini-muffins baked for 20 mins).  Cool in tin for 10 mins, before placing on a metal rack to cool completely.  Frost with cream cheese frosting if desired.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 Tbsp unsalted butter
8 ozs cream cheese
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1.  Beat the butter (at room temp) and the cream cheese (also at room tempt) in a mixing bowl on medium speed until smooth.  Add confectioners' sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy.

Zucchini Tart

We were away, and then spent the remainder of last week readjusting to being home, thus our lack of posts.  We're back, though, and looking forward to trying some yummy new dishes.

I just finished reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.  It's an incredibly interesting, and important, book.  It gave me so much to think about in terms of both the health of my family and of our planet.  It's also causing me to think about the money I spend on our family's food (more on that in a separate post where I'll explain how I've been tracking things).  I've just started reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  It's every bit as interesting as In Defense of Food, and reinforces many of the same ideas.  One of the main emphases of each book is the recommendation to buy (and eat) as much of your food from locally grown sources as possible.  There are so many important reasons for doing so, and each book explains these reasons wonderfully.

We hoped to have our own garden this year, but it turns out we just don't get enough sun in our yard (even without the insane amount of rain we've had this year!).  Next year we'll look into getting a plot at one of our local community gardens.  This year we'll utilize our CSA share, our wonderful local farmer's market, and the fantastic garden planted by my parents-in-law with help from our four-year-old.  (My parents-in-law live on a beautiful farm in Central Massachusetts.  They planted an amazing garden this year, and my older daughter was in heaven helping them (my younger daughter was in heaven trying to pick all the yummy looking veggies!).  We've been out a few times to visit and watch as the garden has transformed from a plot of dirt to an abundance of plants and flowers.  We're also hoping they'll get chickens soon, as they've been talking about for years, so that we can enjoy fresh eggs.)  We were out there this past weekend, and came home with some gorgeous zucchini and summer squash, perfect green beans, and very orange carrots.

I wanted to make a fresh dinner showcasing the zucchini.  With my husband home to entertain the kids I finally had time to try a recipe I discovered a few years ago and have been holding onto ever since.  It's for Zucchini Tart from Saveur magazine.  Even using prepared puff pastry (I don't often use this as it violates a few of my rules, but it's so good and everything in moderation is a great rule for a reason), this took longer than I would be able to spend on a normal weeknight.  That said, it was absolutely delicious!!  Both of my kids ate huge portions, and my older daughter asked for seconds (she usually screams and runs in the other direction when I put something with zucchini on the table).  My husband and I loved it, and we will absolutely find the time to make this again.  If you have lots of zucchini, this is a wonderful way to enjoy them.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Asparagus, Avocado, and Snap Pea Pasta

We got a big bag of beautiful sugar snap peas and a huge bunch of parsley in our CSA share this week.  Parsley is always tough- they sell it in such huge bunches and I've never found a recipe calling for more than 2 Tbsp of it.  I always feel terrible throwing it out, but... so I'm working on finding recipes that call for it, and trying to add it as a garnish whenever I have it on hand.  This recipe uses a half cup, which I thought was fine but my almost-four-year-old strenuously objected (she pretty much objected to the whole meal save the pasta, avocado, and parmesan).  My 14-month-old loved it, however, as did my husband.

Asparagus, Avocado, and Snap Pea Pasta

1 lb asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 lb sugar snap peas, ends trimmed and strings removed
1 lb whole wheat pasta (we like fusilli)
2 Tbsp olive oil (I used to use butter, but prefer olive oil for taste and health)
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 ripe avocado, cut into bite-size chunks
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (mint or basil would be excellent as well)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
Salt and Pepper

1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Blanch the asparagus in the boiling water until bright green (2 mins or so), then add snap peas and cook for 30 seconds more.  Transfer veggies to a bowl.

2.  Bring water back to a boil, add pasta and cook until al dente.  Reserve 1 cup pasta water, and set aside with pasta.

3.  Heat the olive oil in the pasta pot.  Add cooked veggies, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste and cook for about 2 mins.  Add cooked pasta, avocado, parsley (mint or basil), cheese, and reserved pasta water.  Mix well; serve with extra cheese.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"Healthy" Mac & Cheese

I discovered a version of this pre-Deceptively Delicious.  It's evolved over the years, and it's now one of my husband's top three favorite dinners.  The kids love it as well, especially Cecily. It's a great dinner to make ahead- I often make it in the morning while my older daughter is at school and my younger daughter is napping, and then just keep it in the oven until it's time to throw it in the oven.

"Healthy" Mac & Cheese

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
8 oz vegetable stock
8 oz milk (any kind will work, even plain soymilk- I use 1%)
pinch nutmeg
pinch cayenne (I use a fairly mild cayenne with the kids in mind)
salt and pepper
1 lb pasta (I use whole wheat Fusilli from Trader Joe's or Whole Foods)
1 lb ricotta cheese (I use part-skim)
2 cups grated cheddar (I use Cabot Seriously Sharp)
1 cup shredded parmesan
1 cup breadcrumbs (if I don't have any on hand, I grind up a slice of whole wheat bread in my mini-cuisinart- works great)
2 Tbsp olive oil

1.  Preheat oven to 375F 20 minutes before baking

2.  Combine prepared squash, stock, and milk in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer until squash is tender.  Add nutmeg, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mash together to form a smooth sauce (I use a potato masher right in the pot; I've also used the paddle attachment with my stand mixer but that makes more dishes and I haven't noticed a big difference in how everything turns out).

3.  While the squash cooks, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente.

4.  Drain pasta; add it to the squash mixture.  Add ricotta and cheddar, and stir to combine well.

5.  Pour the mixture into the mac & cheese pan of your choice.  (I used to use a deep round baking dish.  My husband loves the topping so much that I've started using a 9 x 13 baking dish to make even more topping.)  Refrigerate until ready to bake.

6.  Just before baking, combine breadcrumbs, parmesan, and olive oil in a small bowl.  (The amounts for this are approximate, add or subtract depending on how much topping you're going for.)  Spread evenly over the mac & cheese.  Cover with foil.  Bake for about 35 minutes; remove foil and bake for another 10 - 15 mins until topping is golden.