There was a time when muffins were the plain Jane cousins of cupcakes, back before they were laden with chocolate chips and dried cranberries, covered with thick layers of streusel topping and loaded up with butter or oil and lots and lots of sugar. They had few ingredients and were usually served with butter and some kind of jam or preserves.
I'd like to suggest that simple muffins of the plainer variety can still be something your family will love even as they are getting more nutrition and fewer empty calories. Today's recipe is one of those basic breads, perfect for having ready when the kids get home from school and can't wait for dinner. Because of the applesauce in the mix, you won't even need to serve with jam--though that is certainly a possibility that most kids will not turn down.
Following the recipe are a few variation suggestions, along with thoughts on how to cut down on prep time when you really, really want to get something in the oven quickly.
Applesauce Zucchini Muffins
2 c unbleached flour (can use up to 1 c of whole wheat flour to substitute for part of the flour)
1/3 c sugar
1 T baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1 c grated zucchini OR yellow summer squash, lightly packed
approximately 3/4 c applesauce
milk--see Step 2
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 T butter, melted (may substitute canola oil)
1. Stir the dry ingredients in a bowl until well mixed. Form a well in the middle; this is where you will be pouring the rest of the ingredients
2. Place the zucchini and applesauce in a 2 cup measure and fill to the top with milk.
3. Pour the zucchini applesauce mixture into the well, along with the egg and butter. Stir gently, only until the mixture is completely blended, with no dry spots. The batter may be a bit lumpy--that is fine!
4. Spoon the mixture into well-oiled muffin pans. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for about 14 minutes. Remove from pans while still hot and place on a cooling rack. Best served warm from the oven, while the fragrance fills the house.
This makes 12 to 14 muffins. (If you only have one muffin pan that holds 12 muffins, you can put the remaining batter into a small loaf pan and bake for perhaps a minute or two longer than the muffins.)
This is a pretty basic muffin recipe, with little fat because of the applesauce. You can add in raisins or nuts or sunflower seeds, substitute grated carrots or butternut squash for the zucchini, and even mix in half a cup or so of blueberries or chopped strawberries or raspberries. The sugar could be increased by a tablespoon or two if you use tart berries. Add nutmeg or ginger along with the cinnamon or leave all the spices out and add some grated orange or lemon rind. A half teaspoon of vanilla could also be used instead of the spices.
Make Ahead Hints
I used a package of grated summer squash from my freezer for this week's muffins, so these were especially quick to make. In season, I grate what always seems like an overabundance of zucchini and squash and package in 1 cup portions, in the cheap sandwich bags that fold over rather than zip closed. I then put several of these into a larger (1 gallon size is good) freezer bag. When packaged in this way and used within the next several months, there is no need to blanch these vegetables.
Even if you don't have garden produce to use in this recipe, why not grate several cups while you have the grater (or processor or blender) out and freeze the extras in the same way? Carrots could be frozen for up to a couple of months for use in later muffin, cake, or other recipes.
If you like the idea of making basic muffins like these, measure out the flour, sugar, and baking powder and put them into a small zippered plastic bag. Make up three or four of these at a time. Label each with what is inside and keep in a sealed canister or quart jar. Then, when you are ready for muffins, you have a head start; just take out a bag as though it was a purchased mix and add the remaining ingredients.
With pre-mixed dry ingredients and pre-grated veggies, these muffins take less time to stir together than it will take to get the oven pre-heated.