A Squared: Healthier Zucchini Muffins with Dates & Pecans

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Healthier Zucchini Muffins with Dates & Pecans

Wow, life has been busy lately. Alex has been to Baton Rouge three times in the past three weeks, I was in New York City last week and am currently on my way home from a few days of work in Hilton Head, I attended the Chicago Food + Wine Fest, and we've been trying to spend a few minutes together here and there enjoying each other and the last days of summer... I'm tired.


With as crazy as life has been (and with a slow down not in sight for a while), having food around that's quick and easy and can be made ahead is key right now. That's what yesterday's dinner recipe was all about and today's recipe is all about having something healthy and satisfying on hand for breakfast or a snack when you're running around. I'm always looking for recipes like that-- ones that make my life easier, but also make me feel good about what I am cooking and eating-- and these muffins fit the bill!


I can't remember the last time that I made zucchini bread (except maybe this mocha zucchini cake), but when Alex and I were preparing to take a long trip out of town a few weeks ago and I found a huge zucchini in my fridge during a pre-vacation clean out, I couldn't let it go to waste. I don't think Alex has ever eaten zucchini bread and to say that he was weirded out by the idea is an understatement. I, on the other hand, used to eat this bread all summer long as a kid because my mom's garden produced more zucchini than any normal family could have ever eaten.


The big difference between this recipe and the bread that I'm used to eating is that these zucchini muffins are a healthier version of that traditional recipe. I rounded out the regular flour with some whole wheat to up the healthy fiber. And I cut down the sugar that might normally be included and added some pure maple syrup to the mix. The maple syrup has great natural sweetness, but also has a flavor that really compliments the dates and pecans that I added to the muffins. I love those two ingredients together, but they work really well in these muffins too because-- while zucchini is a green vegetable-- it actually has a very mild flavor. Instead, the zucchini really just adds amazing moisture and texture to these muffins.


I was really pleased with how these muffins turned out, but I've always been a fan of zucchini bread! The real test was whether or not Alex would eat them... and when I caught him sneaking not one, but two to eat I was pretty confident we were on to something! So, make a big batch of these muffins, freeze them for a busy day, and enjoy a satisfying homemade breakfast or snack-- no matter how busy you may be!


Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini (unpeeled)
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar 
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup dry pitted dates, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a muffin pan by either lightly coating the cups with cooking spray or lining each with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine flours, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice. Mix well until ingredients are incorporated and create a well in the center of the mixture. Set aside.

In a second bowl, combine eggs, zucchini, sugar, oil, and maple syrup. Pour into the well of the dry ingredients and stir until the entire mixture is moistened. Do not overmix.

Fold in the chopped dates and pecans. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each cup about 1/2 to 2/3 full.

Bake for 27-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes about 18 muffins.



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