Two nights ago, we had our first real snow of the season. Here, snow only counts if it sticks to the ground; until then, it's merely a driving disturbance. We Clevelanders are a tough bunch when it comes to weather. We have to be. Our weather - with its snow on Tuesday, then warm enough for the beach on Friday - keeps us on our toes. A guessing game of how many layers one can wear without toppling over.
That is, until winter comes.
Winter in Cleveland is a sure thing. Snow from now through March, and probably April. But it's a good thing. The city is resting, hibernating, it needs it's sleep. I'm resting, too, and hopefully the billowy white blanket of the winter months will cover us both, keeping us warm as we plot a successful rejuvenation come spring. Until then, it's mostly indoors for me. But that's not bad; there's plenty to do.
The effects of seasonal changes aren't limited to weather, though . Have you noticed the grocery stores are turning away from orange harvest displays as they put their focus on warm-you-to-the-bone items fit for any icy winter evening? The holiday season is practically upon us, and it's only November 18th.
As the season change draws closer, are there any winter foods your taste buds ache for? Any fall or summer time ingredients you'll be sad to see go?
The Japanese believe in serving food that pairs in harmony with nature and I humbly agree. Winter foods those thick soups, crusty breads, and stuffing mixes are weather perfect - warming and hearty - but pose a certain danger for my celiac stomach.
Ah well, I guess I'll just have to mess around in my kitchen and create my own winter treats. Darn.
Zucchini Cranberry Walnut Muffins
Blending a summer squash and a fruit that embodies winter months, I present to you the perfect end of autumn treat. At less than 200 calories a muffin, these puppies will fill you up without weighing you down.
A note about nutrition. The muffins contain vitamin A, folate, manganese, potassium (the zucchini), vitamin C, dietary fiber, antioxidants, a panel of micro nutrients, promote kidney health (the cranberries), protein, and omega 3s. And if the cancer-fighting, cholesterol lowering power of cranberry-walnut anything isn't enough for you, note the low cholesterol and fat content. For these muffins, I replaced most of the egg with egg whites and most of the oil with cinnamon applesauce. That's right, a baked good my recently fat-insoluble tummy can actually stand. Oh, it's worth saying again: they're less than 200 calories. Beat that, Starbucks.
Oh and have I mentioned? They're. Delicious.
When I told my boyfriend I was going to bring him zucchini cranberry walnut muffins, he was excited. When I went on to explain their positive health benefits, he claimed they suddenly seemed a lot less appetizing. (Who's he kidding? I'll be lucky to have one muffin left by the end of the week.) But for picky eaters - and loved ones who love to pick on you - you might want to keep the knowledge of health benefits to yourself. Simply smile as you watch them devour these amazing muffins, knowing you've provided them with a nutritious snack, whether they like it or not.
makes 12 large muffins
4 Tablespoons of liquid egg whites
1/2 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
2 Tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil
scant 1/2 cup of cinnamon applesauce
1 cup of grated zucchini
1 and 1/2 cups GF flour blend
1 and 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice (or nutmeg, if you're not the pumpkin pie spice fiend that I am)
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 - 3/4 cup of chopped or halved fresh cranberries**
a muffin tin lined with muffin liners
**dried cranberries can always be used, but unlike the real thing, certain brands of dried cranberries can harbor artificial flavorings, colorings, and added sugars. make sure to read the label to pick the best possible product.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg and egg whites. Mix in the sugars, applesauce, and oil followed by the zucchini and vanilla. Set aside.
In another bowl, combine the remainder of your ingredients - the flour, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the walnuts and cranberries, too.
Add the dry flour blend into the egg mixture and combine until throughly mixed. Evenly distribute the batter amongst the muffin liners and bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!