Saturday, July 9, 2011

Whole Grain Cherry Almond Zucchini Muffins (Low-fat!)

"There's something very summer about cherries," someone at work said to me this week.  I couldn't agree more, and what perfect timing he had, because there just so happened to be a sale on cherries this week.  Organic cherries, at that.  And conditioned by years of watching my mother stockpile groceries, I followed my instincts.  I came home with 5 pounds of dark red cherries, glistening with matte condensation.

Ambitious as I may be, I can't eat 5 pounds of cherries before they go bad.  I needed to find some way to use them, or at least to preserve them.  So I started pitting them (my fingers are still slightly purple), and one episode of Gilmore Girls later, I had a mountain of halved, pitted cherries sitting in front of me.  Begging to be used, and pleading with me to infuse something baked with their tart sweetness.

The flavor combination was easy, because cherries go beautifully with almonds.  Theirs is sort of a famous little affair.  So it was really just a matter of finding the medium I was in the mood for.  In the end, I settled on muffins.  Whole grain muffins, specifically, and ones that would use less fat.  Muffins I could eat a few more of without feeling guilty.  Which turned out to be a very wise choice in this case, as these muffins turned out to be heavenly - a little too heavenly for comfort, actually.

Mine turned out to be pretty moist, which is partly due to the substitution of applesauce for some of the oil, and partly due to the shredded zucchini and squash (I used half zucchini and half yellow squash simply because that's what I had in my kitchen, but you should feel free to use all of either, if you only have one or the other).  The fresh chopped cherries add a tart sweetness, the perfect complement to the almond flour and extract.

The bottom line is that they're fabulous, and would be wonderful to eat any time of day (I, um, may have turned them into my dinner tonight).  So next time you find yourself wondering how to use those cherries you just bought, try this recipe out.  And I dare you to stop at just one.

Whole Grain Cherry Almond Zucchini Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup combination of teff flour, brown rice flour, and sorghum flour
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup smooth applesauce
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup shredded/pureed zucchini and/or yellow squash
1 egg
1 tsp. flaxseed meal + 1 tbsp. warm water
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract (optional)
3/4 cup chopped (pitted) cherries

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line a muffin tray or spray with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon and mix well.  In a separate bowl, mix together the oil, applesauce, shredded zucchini/squash, sugar, egg, flaxseed meal and water, and vanilla and almond extracts.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to mix.  Add the chopped cherries (with as little of the water as possible) and stir to mix.

Divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin tins.  Bake at 350 F for 25 - 35 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.  These end up being very moist even after baking for a long time, so definitely take them out after 35 minutes.

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