After the long days of cold, hazy skies, windy afternoons, and freezing temperatures, springtime comes!! That first green leaf makes us all smile and look forward to warmer times in the sun. The transition from winter to spring also happens in the kitchen! You can put away your soup pots (not too far out of sight though, since we do enjoy soup all year round) and take out the sauté pans. We dust off our grills, and the kids start asking for popsicles. Here in Florida, spring comes quickly but only lasts about two weeks! We jump into the 80s and 90s fast, and it starts to feel like summer before spring sets in.
Springtime vegetables include artichokes, asparagus, spinach green beans, peas, and so many others. Zucchini is more of a late- spring- into- summer vegetable. Because of the warmer temperatures of Florida, we grow zucchini almost year round. Our backyard garden gives us a nice zucchini harvest around mid-March.
Recently I was given a “spiralizer,” a kitchen gadget with which you can create various widths and sizes of noodles using vegetables. It’s perfect for zucchini, squash, and cucumbers. It’s a lot of fun to use, and the kids love turning the crank and watching the noodles come out the other end., giving us all a different way to eat up all those spring and summer vegetables.
Another creative way to enjoy vegetables is to include them in baked goods. You can never waste the opportunity to add more variety to your baking! The addition of vegetables can provide extra vitamins and minerals to your recipes while substituting other less nutritious ingredients. You can add pureed, chopped, juiced or shredded vegetables to your creations. It is also a fantastic way to preserve your spring and summer crops: puree or juice them and then freeze small portions to use in baking throughout the year. When baking with vegetables, muffins are my first choice. They are a perfect take-along snack to make ahead of time. Use a mini-muffin pans for small portions that you can include in lunchboxes or for a pre-workout snack. Since they are smaller than regular- sized muffins, they freeze more easily, and you can make big batches for future use. .
This recipe uses zucchini since we’ve harvested an abundant amount our vegetable garden already! But I bet you can make them with squash, pumpkin or carrots as well. These Chocolate Zucchini Muffins are gluten- free and use only honey as a sweetener. This recipe was made with Once Again Cashew Butter, but you can substitute any of your favorite Once Again nut butters. . I do think the cashew butter was a great choice to pair with the zucchini, however. Not only did it add the much needed protein boost to these muffins, but also gave them a texture and flavor that was rich and savory at the same time. Once they are baked, you can still see the little pieces of zucchini, so it is no way to hide food, but that’s not the point at all! I strongly believe in encouraging kids (and adults!) to find different ways to enjoy vegetables that they don’t like cooked in more traditional ways. I am the first to confess that the only way I eat Brussel sprouts is when they are pureed and mixed into my artichoke dip. Everyone has taste unique buds, and it is okay to like different things.
… Enjoy your veggies in baked goods, too!
1 large zucchini (about 1 ½ cup grated)
1/3 cup honey
1 cup Once Again Cashew Butter
¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
½ cup dark chocolate chips
Using a cheese grater, on the thinner side available, grate about 1 ½ cups of zucchini. It takes a large zucchini or two smaller ones for the amount needed in this recipe. Set aside the grated zucchini. In medium bowl, add honey, Once Again Cashew Butter, and mix well; then add egg, cacao powder, salt, and baking soda. Next, add the, and mix well. Fold in the chocolate chips, and fill each muffin cup to about three quarter’s capacity. Bake in 375F oven for 10-18 minutes. The recipe makes about 24 mini muffins or 12 larger muffins. Store them in the refrigerator for up to four days. Frozen muffins can last up to two months. Just reheat muffins for 45 seconds before consuming.