While we were in the jungles of Brazil, the veggies in my boss’ garden were forming their own sort of jungle in her backyard. We returned home to find tomatoes the size of grapefruits, snap beans too numerous to count, and even a baby watermelon. Lurking in the corner of one raised bed was a zucchini that had grown to about a foot and a half long and about 5 inches in diameter. What in the world does one do with a zucchini that big, she mused, proclaiming it was way beyond optimal-flavor size. In the end, the gigantic vegetable came home with me, bound for my juicer…and then I realized that I’d loaned my juicer to a friend. Not wanting to see such an impressive piece of garden bounty go to waste, I started to look for alternative uses and Keith suggested zucchini bread. Bingo.
Admittedly I’ve loosened up on my strict Paleo diet in recent months and settled into a healthy eating pattern that feels great for my body, schedule and lifestyle. But when it comes to baked goods, I still prefer Paleo-friendly recipes, so this zucchini bread idea seemed like the perfect opportunity to find a new, healthy treat. I flipped through my Paleo cookbooks and trolled the interwebs and found two potential winners to whip up in my kitchen.
For my first round, I made the “Grain-Free, Banana-Zucchini Bread (nut-free)” recipe that I found on the blog of Preppy Paleo. She had two versions and since I had more coconut flour on hand than almond, I opted for the second recipe listed in the post. It was SO close to what I was looking for that I almost stopped there and didn’t go another round. Almost. But I caught myself scribbling the words “perfect texture – would like a slightly sweeter/stronger flavor” across the bottom of my printed recipe and it made me realize that what I wanted was a recipe that anyone would enjoy…not just the “Paleotarians” and other health nuts.
So I surfed around a bit more online, and since I had a need-to-be-eaten-soon apple hanging out in my fruit bowl, I settled on the “Zucchini Apple Spice Muffins” by PaleoOMG for round two. These muffins packed the flavor punch that I was missing in the other recipe, but I noted “too moist & too MUCH nutmeg/cloves” on the bottom of this page. And by too moist, I mean that after 45 minutes of baking, they were still more like soup than muffins. I’m pretty sure this was “user error” not a recipe flaw since I didn’t do a great job of squeezing all the water out of the zucchini before baking. But still, I didn’t think my muffin-perfection quest ended here.
Inspired by Goldilocks and Mary-Hall who both tried two things before settling on that “third time’s the charm” bit, (Goldilocks of course test-drove porridge and beds while Mary-Hall baked cinnamon rolls not once, or twice, but three times) I went in search of a third recipe. I combed through many and then decided that the best thing might be to just make my own. I was so close on my first two attempts, and each one had qualities that I liked…so why not just combine them into the perfect muffin? After a little thought and measuring, I came up with the recipe below, and decided to close the kitchen and call it a win. The texture was perfect. The flavor was tasty. The health benefits satisfactory. I bring you:
*4 eggs, whisked
*1 cup almond butter (i used crunchy…smooth would work fine as well. Just make sure you stir the butter before measuring it out as the oil and solids sometimes separate in the jar)
*1/4 cup honey (i haven’t tried this…but you could probably substitute agave nectar with good results.)
*2 teaspoons vanilla extract
*1 average size ripe banana (mashed)
*1 cup zucchini (shredded)
*3/4 cup coconut flour
*3/4 teaspoon baking soda
*pinch of salt
*1 & 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
*1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
*1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
*1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees, place paper/foil muffin cup liners in a six-regular-size muffin tin.
2) Shred zucchini and mash the banana. I used the shredder attachment on my food processor for the zucchini because a traditional grater would have taken for-Ever, and mashed the banana with a fork. I left the skin on the zucchini and obviously peeled the banana.
3) Squeeze the water out of the shredded zucchini. THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT. I skipped this step on my second round of muffins and I think it contributed to their soupy nature. To squeeze the water out, I simply dumped the shredded squash onto an old dishcloth and rolled it up and pushed on it until the dishcloth was soaked through and nothing was dripping when I picked up the zucchini.
4) Pour all the “wet ingredients” in a large mixing bowl (I used my Kitchenaid stand mixer) and mix until blended.
5) Add in the “produce” ingredients and mix again.
6) In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together. Then gradually pour the dry mixture into the wet mixture….mixing until there are no lumps.
7) Pour into the six, regular sized, lined, muffin-cup tin.
8) Bake in pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. They are done when a toothpick stuck inside comes out clean.
*Obviously the addition of the almond butter means this recipe is not ok for anyone with a nut allergy.
*This recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free.
*This recipe is Paleo-friendly although the official Paleo foods list recommends that bananas and honey be consumed “in moderation.”
*This recipe does not meet the guidelines of the “Whole30” diet as their website not only forbids the consumption of honey and agave, but also proclaims, “In addition, no Paleo-ifying dessert or junk food choices. This means no desserts or junk food made with “approved” ingredients—no coconut-flour pancakes, almond-flour muffins, …..”