Friday, August 9, 2013

Zucchini Muffins: 2 Versions

Back in the Dark Ages (ok, the mid-'70s), I was living in San Francisco's Richmond District, scraping by on a temp worker's salary and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. To while away date-less evenings, I often baked something sweet to share with my roommates. One of the popular items of the day was zucchini bread. The version I remember making was a dark, somewhat dense loaf with the bright green zucchini bits subdued amid the raisins and nuts.

Over the weekend, in a nostalgic mood, I decided to try making more portable versions of the loaves in the form of muffins. I first tried a recipe for Zucchini Lemon Muffins from one of my favorite cookbooks of late, "The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion." I pretty much followed the recipe, but then amped up the sweet and crunch factors with a streusel topping (brown sugar, nuts and cinnamon). The result was a bit too sweet for my taste, so I would probably nix the streusel next time, but for those with a sweet tooth, I have included it in the following recipe, along with the changes I made to the original recipe in parentheses.

Zucchini Lemon Muffins (Version #1)


2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used 1 cup whole wheat)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Grated peel of 1 lemon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup packed, shredded, unpeeled zucchini


2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon peel in a large bowl. Stir in walnuts and raisins. In a smaller bowl, combine eggs, milk and oil. Make a well in the dry ingredients, and add the wet ingredients. Stir until barely combined. Gently fold in zucchini. Combine brown sugar, nuts and cinnamon for the topping, if using.

Spoon into greased 12-cup muffin tin(s). Sprinkle streusel on top, if using. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the muffins spring back when you press them with your fingertips. Remove from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes on a rack, then  turn out of the pans to finish cooling.


King Arthur says the recipe makes 12 muffins, but my recipe made 16.
Each had about 6 Weight Watchers points with the streusel. Subtract a point if you don't use it. Calories: Approximately 210 each with streusel, 192 without.

Zucchini-Carrot Muffins (Version #2)

Mini-muffins, fresh from the oven
After my husband, who is trying to lose a few lbs, complained about how sugary my muffins were, I decided to try coming up with a lighter, less sweet version. I halved the oil and added homemade applesauce (super easy to make with peeled, cored apples boiled until soft in a little water, then mashed with a potato masher) to replace the oil I left out. I also cut the calorie-laden nuts and raisins in the King Arthur recipe, replaced the lemon zest with orange, half the zucchini with shredded carrots, and used egg substitute and egg whites in place of regular eggs. I halved the salt as well and used a cup of Trader Joe's gluten-free flour in place of one cup of flour and switched the sweeteners a bit. The result was a tender, lighter-colored muffin with the bright taste of orange shining through. I put most of the batter in mini-muffin tins to reduce the calorie and point count even more. Microwaved for breakfast with a bit of low-sugar apricot jam, these hit the spot!


1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup gluten-free flour (or flour of your choice)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
Grated peel of one orange
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup honey
2 egg whites
1/4 cup egg substitute (or 2 more egg whites)
1/2 cup skim milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup shredded carrots


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix flours, sugars, baking powder, salt, cinnamon (if using) and orange peel until well incorporated in a large bowl. Add raisins and nuts. Mix remaining ingredients, except zucchini and carrot, in small bowl. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and briefly mix together. Gently fold in the grated zucchini and carrots.

Spoon into greased regular and/or mini-muffin tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes for the regular-sized muffins, 15-20 for the minis. As muffins are light in color, you may need to check to make sure they're browned enough. I took mine out too early and put back to bake for a few minutes more. Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then finish cooling on a rack.


Makes about 16 regular muffins or 48-50 minis. Each mini has about 44 calories and 1 Weight Watchers Plus point, while the larger ones have about 126 calories each and 4 points.

You could easily freeze these in air-tight freezer bags and warm up in the microwave later. Most muffins fare better warm than cold, and lower-fat muffins are even less tender tasting when cold, so warming them up really makes the difference between tender and tough. Make sure not to overheat, however. Just a few seconds in the microwave is enough. A minute or so and you've got something not only scorching but terminally inedible.

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