Sunday, September 25, 2011

Stealthy Healthy Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Food is my passion, but I realize that I’m consumed with finding not just delicious, nutritious, and appealing sustenance, but also finding ways to get my grandchildren to eat them. After polishing off two meals one day last week, I realized that my granddaughter had eaten only carbohydrates and dairy all day. Now she was begging for a chocolate muffin before dinner. It was time for Grandma to convince her to eat something from the vegetable kingdom.

“Princess, you haven’t eaten fruits or vegetables all day. It’s very important for your health that you eat vegetables and fruits—a rainbow of color that covers half your plate at every meal.”

She thought about that for a moment then said, “But Grandma, the other half of the plate can be brown, right?”

It was very hard to keep a straight face, but I continued, “Yes, but some of the brown needs to be meat, bread, beans, or nuts. Now can we have some cucumber slices or celery trees with humus just to last until dinner?”

She sighed deeply and said, “Okay.” I put a sandy beach of humus on her plate and planted some palm celery trees around it. She ate most of it. That’s when I decided we would make some chocolate zucchini muffins and hide some vegetables in her favorite food—chocolate.

First we began with the following ingredients:
3 eggs
2 cups of sugar
¾ cup of canola oil

The princess beat the eggs and sugar and then added the oil a few spoons at a time until the ingredients were thoroughly blended.

Next we measured and mixed the dry ingredients:
2 cups flour
¾ cups cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
Then I combined the contents of both bowls and added 1 cup of dark chocolate chips while the princess lined the 12 muffin cups with paper liners. She was happy as she snacked on the chocolate chips—two for the bowl and one for the mouth. Then I took out the grater and two glossy green zucchini which I began grating into a bowl.

Eying me suspiciously the princess stopped chewing the chocolate and said, “Grandma, what are you doing with that zucchini?”

I continued to grate listening to the life-blood of the squash swishing through the tiny blades. “I’m going to put two cups of this living rainbow green vegetable into the muffin batter to keep you healthy and strong.”

“No-o-o-o, Grandma! Don’t do it. You’re going to ruin my muffins,” she said as she sprang from the stepladder and left me to finish the detestable task of spoiling a perfectly delicious chocolate dessert.

Ignoring her, I mixed the two cups of grated zucchini into the batter watching the green disappear. She writhed on the floor and mumbled that mixing vegetables and sweets wouldn’t work.

“Look, Sweetie Pie, the zucchini disappeared,” I said and scooped half the dark chocolate batter into the muffin tins and the rest into a greased loaf pan.

“But the zucchini is still there even if you can’t see it—right Grandma?”

“That’s right,” I said and placed the pans in the oven preheated to 350 degrees. The loaf had to remain in the oven for about 55 minutes until set, but the muffins were ready in about 25 minutes.

I removed the muffins from the oven as the warm chocolate fragrance wafted through the air—my mouth watered. I took the muffins from the pan and placed them on a wire rack to cool more quickly. Within five minutes I tore the paper from one and bit into the moist richness. “Um-m-m, better than a brownie, I said. “Delicious!” I held out my arm with the half eaten muffin, closed my eyes and tilted my face to heaven and inhaled.

The princess grabbed the muffin and took a bite, “Oh, Grandma, you’re right. I can’t see the zucchini or taste it. It’s magic! Can I have another one?

Yes, Stealthy Granny strikes again!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Imagination Cupcakes

My sister Wilma, an extraordinary grandmother, who has lived through many a power outage, came up with this idea that allows children to create their own cake. Since we had just come through hurricane Irene, I thought it would be a great way to get rid of all those long-shelf-life foods we purchased before the storm. Fortunately for us, all we lost was internet and cable TV, so we just needed entertainment. We scanned the pantry and found a yellow cake mix, cooking oil, cocoa, some already prepared pudding cups, mini chocolate chips, coconut, and powdered sugar. In the frig we found blueberries, eggs, butter, and cream cheese. The Princess pulled out the step stool; we turned on our imaginations and got started.

We followed the directions on the cake mix box and my assistant pastry chef used the wire whip to mix the basic batter then lined the cupcake pans—next came the fun part. Since the recipe would make 24 cupcakes, we figured out the math and made six of each kind. We divided the batter into four small bowls.

In the 1st, we added a handful of blueberries, mixed them and poured them into six cups.

In the 2nd, we added cocoa and mini chocolate chips and poured them into six more cups.

In the 3rd, we mixed in cocoa, put a heaping tablespoon of batter into each cup, and then added a spoon of butterscotch pudding before adding another spoon of the batter. Not only were those filled, but they erupted like little volcanoes in the oven!

In the 4th bowl, we added 2 tablespoons of flaked coconut, poured each cup half full of the batter then put in a spoon of lemon pudding and covered it with the rest of the batter. They also erupted. We put all of them into a preheated oven at 350 degrees and baked them until they sprung back when touched lightly.

Since our objective was to use things we had on hand, we made cream cheese icing but you could use canned icing. We topped off the blueberry with plain icing marked with a single blueberry. To both the chocolate cupcakes we added cocoa. Those with chocolate chip we topped with more chips and the others we iced then put just a tiny bit of chocolate syrup coming out of the volcano.

Finally the lemon ones were covered with plain cream cheese icing then topped with coconut. If we had fresh lemon, a tiny bit of lemon zest would have been a good way to tell what was inside, but that didn't keep it from being the most popular cupcake.

Your imagination can take you a long way and cooking with children can give you lots of ideas. Look in your cupboard and see what you can do with those ingredients before their expiration date comes around. Sometimes we just need a little push to see what we can do with leftovers.