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A List Ingredients (Zucchini Bread)

zucchinibreadI know what you’re thinking, is this really a bread recipe in the middle of the summer? The truth is, I don’t “plan” my blog posts in advance. I write about what I’m inspired by at any moment, whether it’s food from the CSA or conversations with friends about life, love, and wellness. Typically, my recipes are created the day I write about them. This is a recipe for zucchini bread, muffins, or cake, and the rockstar ingredient of course is the zucchini. I’ll call the other ingredients the, ahem, “A-list” ingredients.

So, recently my friend Kelli shared with me that she made my Chocolate Zucchini Muffins (slightly different recipe than this one, click here for it) while she was at the beach with her whole family, and everyone loved them. I was of course happy to hear that, and the next question was “have you ever made this recipe as a cake?”. My answer: “no, actually I have not, but if you try it, I would love to know how it goes!” This definitely got me thinking. Ever since I began re-inventing my mother’s recipes over the past few years, the melodramatic cupcake has taken over the world and people everywhere have fancied these tiny little treats. I guess the old fashioned cake took a back seat (unless you have a little one, in which case their birthday requires Googling Wilton’s cake pans for the latest Batman or Dora cake mold). It’s almost as if the cupcakes themselves are symbolic of the American icons like Mickey Mouse…you know, they just make people happy. In fact, perhaps it’s just the psychology of the muffin that is shaped like a cupcake which makes the average person believe they are consuming a treat instead of something healthy. The reality is, there is a vast difference between the “cupcake” and the “muffin” although walk into any coffee shop and you’re not likely to notice the difference because even though those muffins may tout blueberries, the ingredient list is often promulgated by sugar, eggs, and white flour.

Enter friend Jeff into the equation, the husband of one of my dear friends. In my own mind, this is like one extended conversation about cakes, cupcakes, and muffins, but in reality these conversations occurred several weeks apart. Anyway, we were out to a long overdue adult dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants, which, consequently, was offering a “Farm-to-table” night which we were thrilled with. It was the perfect setting to celebrate good friends and good food, as well as engage in some adult conversation without having to stop the conversation every 3 minutes to manage children. We were discussing our mid-summer gardens, how our plants were fairing, keeping deer and other critters from nibbling away our hard work, and the topic of zucchini came up (a favorite to grow in our part of the country). I said something like “I think I’m going to make some zucchini muffins, I have so many zucchini in my garden this week.” And with that, Jeff says “ya, but those really aren’t so healthy.”

Hmm.

The conversation proceeded without a hitch to a different topic of conversation, but I instantly entertained a flashback, you know the kind where 20 different thoughts stream through your mind in a matter of 2 seconds. Muffins, unhealthy, cupcakes, Kelli, cake, teeth (Jeff is a dentist) and my daughter’s elementary school where I baked those healthy muffins for the first time last year. Hmm, that is a very common misconception among people who legitimately are trying to eat healthier. Like Jeff suggested, the average coffee shop muffin really is overly reliant upon that no-so-great ingredient list. Yes. Exactly. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? It’s kind of like that rhetorical question with the obvious answer. On the one hand, Jeff is right, he totally recognizes that coffee shop muffin contains too many unhealthy ingredients, so he clearly deduces that all muffins likely contain those ingredients. (In my mind, I’m thinking: Bingo. My next blog post.)

Let me introduce you to the healthy bread, or muffin, if you pour it into a cupcake liner that is. Alternatively you could bake in a cake pan and call it a cake, or, you could bake it in a bread loaf and call it a bread. Whatever method you prefer, you’ll find the same delicious taste, and perhaps most importantly, the same healthy ingredients! Oh ya, did I mention it’s whole grain, vegan, oil free, and gluten free? That’s right, these are A-list ingredients. Okay, now I’ll give you my “optional” ingredient, chocolate chips. I have to admit, I have two vices, coffee and chocolate. I love chocolate. I guess that’s part of why I like to say that I’m plant-based and not “vegan”. Once you take a look at the ingredient list, I’ll let you decide whether the chocolate is required or optional in your own recipe. Eating healthy never tasted so delicious. Bon appetite!

Dry Ingredients
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup bread flour (or all purpose)
2-4 tablespoons of sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
3-4 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup almond milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 medium zucchini (about 2 cups), scrubbed, skin on, and cubed or shredded

Preparation
Preheat your oven to 350. I like to process the wet ingredients in my food processor first. It will be a fairly thick and creamy consistency. Add the dry ingredients and blend together to desired consistency. Fold in chocolate chips last if using.

The biggest difference in preparation is the baking time in the oven, which depends if you are baking muffins, bread, or a cake. The muffins take the least amount of time at about 40-50 minutes. The loaf pan takes the most amount of time at about 55 minutes. The cake pan fairs in between, at about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Because you are not using eggs, the “cake” comes out very moist and dense, and using gluten free flour also makes it not rise as you may expect in using traditional ingredients. If you keep it on the middle rack and keep the oven to 350, it will not burn even though you may think it seems like it’s getting dark. The inside remains very moist from the applesauce, so it does need to remain in the oven longer than traditional cupcakes, muffins, or cakes. The most important part is to allow it to cool completely before attempting to slice through it. This recipe needs time to set when it comes out of the oven, so try to resist the urge to slice into it while it’s still warm because you’ll encounter a sticky mess. Let it set, then refrigerate, and it will set up nicely and remain moist. Enjoy for breakfast, afternoon tea, or a dessert.

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