Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

This has been one of those Maine summers that totally makes you fall in love. The weather has been perfect. Warm sunny days, sapphire skies filled with cotton candy clouds. On the water, the light shines so brightly, it makes each wave and ripple look as though they are crested with silver. 

I got a week to myself for the first week of August, while Zsuleikah was getting some good grandparent bonding time. I was really looking forward to some solitude and quiet. My first night solo, I headed up to Eustis, to sleep lakeside in Cathedral Pines Campground on Flagstaff Lake. It had been years since I had been up that way, and don't think I ever realized how incredibly beautiful it is. There had just been a rain storm earlier in the evening and fog was creeping its curling tendrils through the blue mountains and over the gray glassy lake. Daylight was closed with an incredible line of fire squashed between the cloud layer in the sky and the steadfast mountains. Reflecting pinks and purples on the water. As night creeped in, I built myself a fire to take off the chill of the dampness.  The blue moon rose quietly over the island speckled lake, as a loon family called back and forth to one another and the water lapped the sandy shore.

The next morning, I greeted the world with the rising sun, soaked in the peaceful morning and packed up camp to head to Mount Bigelow. Beauty surrounded me from the start of the trail. A bubbling brook seeping into Stratton Brook Pond, green mountains behind, green grasses reaching to the blue sky. My feet hit the ground and I began to clip along the Firewarden's Trail. About a mile and a half from the top, large moss covered boulders
positioned as stairs invited me to the summit, teasing me with tiny glimpses through the trees of the views that were awaiting me. When I reached the top of Avery Peak, my tired quads enjoyed resting on the windy mountain top, surrounded by a 360 degree view of Sugarloaf Mountain, Little Bigelow, Crocker Mountain and Flagstaff Lake. I continued on the trail toWest Peak, through miniature fairy forests on to South Horn and North Horn, eventually winding my way down to Horn Pond, and the rest of the way down the mountain. It was a little slice of 15 mile alpine heaven. It took me exactly 8 hours, reaching the car at 4:45 tired and accomplished. Before ending the day on the couch with two movies, I spent dusk meandering through my parents enormous garden with a cold beer in my hand, munching on green beans and peas, before finally grilling up some zucchini and tomatoes and tossing them with garlic, fresh basil and cream cheese into a huge bowl of pasta.  


I spent much of the next day harvesting food from my parents enormous garden. Cilantro, zucchini and squash, lettuce, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. Before heading back to Portland with a cooler full of veggie loot, I picked an enormous bouquet of Queen Anne's Lace, Black Eyed Susans and Golden Rod. 

If you grow a garden like I do, then you are probably asking yourself during this time of year, "what do I do with all this zucchini?" My squash is just starting to come in, but I know it is a matter of days before I start asking that question.  Its the plant that once it starts, it just keeps on giving. I'll get back to the zucchini in a minute, but first want to share a bit this summer's experience in Maine.I make a lot of dishes using zucchinis. I love a Zucchini and Tomato Melt on a hot day. Zucchini Egg Casserole, Zucchini Enchiladas with Salsa Verde. And of course, if you have seen my posts about grilling, grilled zucchinis are super versatile. Since we also have a sweet tooth in our
household, baked zucchini goodies are also a favorite. I had always been used to traditional zucchini bread, which I love too. Then my friend Claire introduced me to these delicious chocolate muffins. She was always whipping them up as a treat in the summer whenever we were over. When I finally asked for the recipe, I was excited to see that aside from the amount of sugar, they were fairly healthy, made with a whopping two cups of zucchini and whole wheat flour. 


Ingredients 

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (regular fine too)
  • 2 cups grated zucchini, drained (if its super watery, drain well, a tiny bit of water will keep muffins moist) 
  • Non-stick spray for muffin tins if not using paper liners
Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare muffin tin (spray if not using paper liners) 

Step 2: Whisk together dry ingredients (first six ingredients on list)

Step 3: In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, then oil and vanilla. Beat slowly to combine. 

Step 4: Add dry ingredient mixture to wet ingredients, mix until just blended. 

Step 5: Add zucchini and chocolate chips, mix until just combined.

Step 6: Spoon into prepared cups 3/4 full. Bake 15-20 minutes. You can check for doneness by inserting a toothpick, if it comes out clean they are done. Or if the top of the muffin is just barely sticky and springy, it is done. Let cool completely on a baking rack.