Carrot Zucchini Raisin Bran Muffins

Carrot Zucchini Raisin Bran Muffins

I know what you might be thinking, bran muffins? Um, no thanks. Well, these are really worth trying even if you’re not a bran fan. They are so rich and tasty, and they will fill your belly way more than any sweet, processed, mirage of a muffin ever will.  The only sweetener is a small amount of maple syrup, a dash of honey, and the raisins. I love the carrot-zucchini-raisin mixture so much I haven’t branched out, but the base is flexible and would be well suited to anything you might like to muffin-ize.

Ingredients, makes 12 heaping muffins

  • 1 1/3 cups wheat bran
  • 1 1/3 cups oat bran
  • 1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk 
  • 2/3 cup yogurt 
  • 1/3 cup avocado oil
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • splash of honey
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup packed finely shredded zucchini (1 medium zucchini)
  • 1 cup packed finely shredded carrots (1-2 medium carrots)
  • 1 cup raisins

I like to prepare the dry ingredients, then the wet ingredients, then the filler ingredients, then mix them all together. But first, pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.

Combine your dry ingredients (wheat bran, oat bran, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt) into a bowl and gently mix to combine. If you’re like me, you might need to temper your mixing so you don’t send your dry ingredients flying outside the bowl.

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Next, combine your wet ingredients into a bowl (eggs, milk, yogurt, avocado oil, maple syrup, spash of honey, and vanilla). Use a whisk to combine and simultaneously beat the eggs. A few notes.

Milk: I use 2% but you can use whatever you happen to have. Muffins made with skim milk might come out less rich than muffins made with a higher fat content milk, but do you need to go out and buy a whole other container of milk? Probably not.

Yogurt: I have used full fat greek yogurt, low fat european style yogurt, and low fat regular yogurt. I’ve even used vanilla flavored yogurt in a pinch. They all work but my favorite was the low fat european style. It could have been because it was Strauss and they are just the best, or it could have been that the more liquidy nature of the yogurt made the muffins more moist. I don’t know. I do know that you’ll be fine with whatever yogurt you use.

Oil: I use avocado oil because it’s an oil I have found that is very versatile for cooking and baking, does not have an avocado taste in foods (but that wouldn’t really be a bad thing), and seems to have bypassed much of the controversy around other oils and the ‘are they good for you / are they the worst thing ever for you’ discussion. If you use and like canola, or sunflower, or butter, you probably could use it in this recipe. I would however avoid olive oil because that will bring a unique flavor that won’t match well with these muffins.

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Then lastly prepare your carrots, zucchini, and raisins. I grate a medium zucchini and 1-2 medium carrots to get finely shredded filling.

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With all your ingredients in place, it’s time to combine them. I like to fold my carrots, zucchini, and raisins into the wet ingredients to get them well mixed.

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Then I pour the dry ingredients into to the wet ingredients in batches, folding them together with a rubber spatula. Doing it in batches makes it easier to get an even mix, and it’s only the very last batch that might be tough to do.

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Now you are ready to fill your muffin cups. I use an awesome silicone muffin tin that rarely requires any greasing and the muffins pop out super easily when cooked. Regular muffin tins will work fine too, just grease them with butter or a little of the oil you used. Scoop your muffin mixture into your muffin cups. Be generous and heap your batter into the cups.

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If using a silicone muffin tin, place it on a baking sheet to make it easier to grab (the silicone is wobbly), and place your tin in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Let rest in the tin for 5-10 minutes, then have them cool on a cooling rack. Eat one immediately with a little butter.

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I find the muffins last 2-3 days in an airtight container on my counter. I haven’t yet been able to freeze any (they have been eaten too quickly) but you could freeze some as well and reheat in the toaster when you are ready to eat.

Adapted from Farmgirl Fare

Farmers’ Market Sunday Dinner

Farmers’ Market Sunday Dinner

There is nothing like having a full and satisfying Sunday, filled with something fun and something outdoors, but not so busy that there isn’t a moment to breathe and rest for a little bit too. And then following up the fun-fulled day with a hearty and wholesome meal. Yesterday we had such a day. We started the day with a run – the longest run we had done in a while so it was both daunting, exhilarating, and tiring – and then came home to make homemade pizza. Then there were various activities, including a trip to the driving range, a nap, and some writing. And before we knew it, it was time for dinner!

Dinner was an especially festive occasion because my mom was here. That coupled with the sense of satisfaction we all had from a day well lived (and the wine we opened), gave the meal a merry mood. Halfway through the meal I realized it was almost entirely a Farmer’s Market meal: everything except one or two small ingredients had come from the Farmers’ Market the day before.

Menu:

  • Whole pasture-raised chicken from Fogline Farm
  • Potatoes from Windmill Farm
  • Salad with lettuce, golden nuggets, avocado, and sunflower seeds from various other farm vendors
  • Wildhorse Pinot Noir wine

Needless to say it satisfied our hearts and our hunger.

For the chicken

  • one 2-4 lb whole chicken
  • salt
  • optional herb such as thyme or rosemary
  • butcher twine to truss

My favorite roast chicken recipe comes from Thomas Keller and it is amazingly simple and so delicious. The hardest part is trussing the chicken, but some chickens come already trussed so you practically just put it in the oven.

To prepare, pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. To get the best, crispiest skin you’ll want the chicken to be dry so pat it down with a paper towel. I don’t rinse my chickens anymore as that just spreads germs around your sink and kitchen, and rinsing won’t do anything cooking the chicken won’t. Then you’ll want to truss your chicken if it didn’t already come that way. I have made this recipe without trussing and it will still be delicious. But it will cook more evenly and be less likely to dry out if you truss. If you need to truss and haven’t before your best bet is to watch a youtube video to learn.

Once the chicken is trussed (or not), it’s time to salt your chicken. This is the key to this delicious chicken. If you are usually reserved in your salting approach, don’t be shy and step it up for this recipe. You’ll want to shower salt over it so a nice coating develops. If you’re more into precise measurements you’ll want to use about 1 tablespoon of salt. Once it cooks, you’ll be left with the tastiest, crispiest skin ever and the meat will have just the right amount of seasoning too.

Then just put it in your oven. I like to cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil to make for easier cleanup. In our oven the chicken is done after about 45 minutes, but it could take as long as 50 or 60 minutes so check yours with a meat thermometer. At 165 degrees your bird is done.

When it’s done, you can add your optional herb and baste it with any of the delicious chicken juice that has collected at the bottom of your pan. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes then carve it up!

For the potatoes

  • 1-2 lbs farm fresh potatoes
  • olive oil
  • sea salt

To prepare, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Then rinse and scrub your potatoes to get any lingering dirt off them. Slice them into 1/2 inch rounds and toss them in a bowl with a little olive oil and sea salt. Then you’re ready to put them on your baking sheet and put them in the oven. They will take 30-40 minutes to cook depending on how big your rounds are. I like to check them halfway through and toss them so they cook evenly and don’t stick to my baking sheet. When you can pierce them easily with a fork they are done. Add some of the leftover thyme or rosemary from your chicken.

For the salad

  • one bunch red leaf lettuce
  • one large golden nugget (or other mandarin orange)
  • one medium avocado
  • optional: sunflower seeds and/or dried cranberries
  • olive oil, one lemon, and Bragg liquid aminos for the dressing
  • salt to taste

To prepare, wash and dry your lettuce and put in salad bowl. Open, cut, and add your golden nugget and avocado, and sprinkle with sunflower seeds and/or dried cranberries if desired. I am pretty loose with my dressings and rarely make them to any specific measurement. I also love the acid flavor in vinegar and lemon and will put way more than any traditional recipe will call for. For this dressing I used about 1/4 cup of olive oil, juice from one whole lemon, and 5-6 sprays from Bragg liquid aminos, put all those ingredients into a small jar with a lid and shook them up. If you’re not so bold with your acid ratios, you might prefer 2 tbs of lemon juice instead as a start and add a little more until you find the taste that suits you well. Pour your dressing over your salad, add some salt, toss, and you’re good to go.

What is this Bragg liquid aminos you may be asking? It is a soy alternative seasoning and it is delicious (if you like soy-like flavors). I get it at my local health food store but honestly don’t know how common it is. If you don’t have it, can’t find it, or don’t really care to get some random ingredient, no problem! Lemon and olive oil and a little salt will be a perfectly delicious, simple, and satisfying dressing to this citrus oriented salad.

So that was our Sunday dinner. The meal comes together pretty easily since most of the prep time is spent waiting for the chicken and potatoes to cook, the perfect time to make your salad, open some wine, and enjoy your company. Then you can sit back and bask in the pleasure that comes from living a great day.

Things that make me happy

Things that make me happy

I read another writer’s list of things that make her happy and I decided to think about and write my own. One of the simplest ways to bring more happiness into your life is to pay attention to and do the things that make you happy. OK, so you didn’t need this blog to tell you that. But it’s not always so easy to know what those things are. Things that make you happy also don’t need to be big, complicated things. I find the simplest things can bring such deep joy and satisfaction.

This is my list (at the moment). There is of course no right list and no way to finish a list like this. But just taking a few minutes to breathe in the parts of your life that already fill you with joy is a really nice thing to do for yourself.

A warm cup of tea with honey and milk in my favorite big mug

Clean sheets

The morning sun

The morning quiet and stillness

Intertwined feet

Fresh bread

When one of my favorite fruits comes back in season at the farmer’s market

My neighbor’s beautiful roses

Family dance party

My kids hugging and loving and helping each other

Kid laughter

The sound of the wind chimes wafting in from the backyard

Guilt-free time to read a book

Going to the library with my kids

Seeing the excitement my kids get from books

Trying a new recipe

Finding a recipe that just clicks with my family

Getting past the hump of meeting new people and to the point where it feels fun and carefree to have them over for dinner

 

Check out Lindsey Mead’s list here. What things make you happy?