Citrus Zucchini Muffins

Citrus Zucchini Muffins

August disappeared with the blink of an eye. At the beginning, I was lying in the sun, reading a book, and everything since then has been a bit of a blur. I've been traveling again; this time I spent a week in California and another driving up the coast to Seattle. I'll share the pictures with you once I get settled back in. With school starting this week and fall just around the corner, it all feels too soon. 

For now, I'm going to enjoy the end of summer harvest and hold on to the last of the warm summer days.

Citrus Zucchini Muffins
Citrus Zucchini Muffins

The garden at my parent's home grows two vegetables very wellzucchini and rhubarb. Due to a shady tree, the onions stay small, the cucumbers are few, and the cherry tomatoes are nonexistent, but those two vegetables grow so quickly and so large that it is easy to believe they are trying to make up for the other's flaws. My parents kindly let me use whichever vegetables I please, but even I can't find a use for all of the zucchini. 

If you want to lend a helping  hand, do let me know.

Citrus Zucchini Muffins

Though plentiful in the Upper Midwest, I still have not made my mind up about zucchini. While I could take or leave most savory dishes (except this one), bread is where this vegetable shines. Every year I make loaves of zucchini bread and every year I want to share the same recipe with you again because I love it so. While zucchini bread is wonderful with cinnamon, spices, and chocolate chips, this year I challenged myself to find a new way to enjoy it.

With citrus zest for bright flavor and chopped almonds for a hearty bite, zucchini found another way to capture my heart.

Citrus Zucchini Muffins
Citrus Zucchini Muffins

Citrus Zucchini Muffins make for a wonderful end-of-summer breakfast. The muffins are loaded with lemon and orange, a touch of nutmeg, and almonds to make them filling. The muffins are great with a spread of butter, a spoonful of jam, or simply left plain. These muffins surprised me with how much I enjoyed them. The flavors may be simple, but the experience is certainly not.

One Year Ago: Date Flapjacks, Nordic Pancake Cake, and Vanilla Ice Cream Cake
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Cherry Cake, Coconut Scones, Roasted Strawberry Coconut Ice Cream, and Almond Butter Cupcakes with Mocha Buttercream
Three Years Ago: Blueberry Hand Pies, Black Bean Salsa, Harry Potter Treats, and Cauldron Cakes
Four Years Ago: Espresso Chocolate Chip Shortbread, Whole Wheat Wild Blueberry Muffins, and Bittersweet Chocolate Pear Cake

Citrus Zucchini Muffins

Yields 1 dozen muffins

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar 
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup (118 ml) vegetable oil 
Juice of 1/2 orange
1 large egg 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 cup (about 180 grams) grated zucchini, lightly packed 
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 cup (120 grams) whole wheat flour 
1/2 cup (63 grams) all-purpose flour 
1/2 cup (113 grams) whole almonds, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a muffin pan with baking cups.

In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, lemon zest, and orange zest until fragrant. Whisk in the vegetable oil, orange juice, and vanilla until well combined. Stir in the grated zucchini. Mix in the nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Fold in the flour, mixing until the batter becomes uniform. Mix in the chopped almonds.

Fill baking cups 3/4 full and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the muffins cool briefly before eating. Serve plain or with a spread of jam.

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

There is a simple beauty in the chocolate chip cookie. While it means different things to different people, for most of us the chocolate chip cookie is a reminder of home. The smell of a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie is like a security blanket. The scent wraps around your shoulders, calming with a sense of familiarity and comfort. The taste brings back memories of childhood. After a long day at school, feet dangling off the kitchen stool, the cookie had the ability to make an ordinary day feel special. With a glass of milk, you knew everything was going to be okay. 

The chocolate chip cookie never loses that power.

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I like my chocolate chip cookies soft and chewy in the center and crisp on the edges. While everyone has their own definition of the "perfect chocolate chip cookie," this cookie comes exceptionally close to mine. The batter has brown sugar to give it a chewy texture and a little whole wheat to add a nutty undertone. The chocolate chunks make it a classic. I like to chop the chocolate into both large and small piecessmall so that they are evenly dispersed in the batter and large for the extra special bite.

The "sprinkles" on top are the fleur de sel, or flaked sea salt. This special salt gives the cookies a sweet and salty vibe, a coveted contrast in the world of dessert. Do be aware that flaked sea salt is not the same as table salt. It is coarser and less salty, which keeps it from becoming overbearing.

This cookie is the grown-up version of my childhood favorite, but it still reminds me of home.

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies are best fresh from the oven, chocolate melted and gooey. A little espresso powder in the batter brings out the flavor of the chocolate, but stays subtle enough to let the rest of the cookie shine. My father, who does not prefer dark chocolate, coffee, or salty desserts, claimed that these cookies were one of his favorites. Accompanied with milk, I have a feeling you'll feel the same way, too.

One Year Ago: Blueberry Braided Bread 
Two Years Ago: Banana Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie, Peach & Blackberry Galette, and Thoughts on my Vegan Challenge
Three Years Ago: Dried Blueberry Granola, BizcochitosParmesan Stuffed Tomatoes, and Quinoa Pudding
Four Years Ago: Incredibly Moist Chocolate Prune Cake

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Yields 1 dozen large cookies (or 2 dozen standard sized)

1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (150 grams) brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup (75 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (88 grams) whole wheat flour
4 ounces (113 grams) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
Fleur de sel or flaked sea salt, for sprinkling (not table salt)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and continue beating until smooth. Gradually add the espresso powder, baking soda, salt, and flours, mixing until uniform. Stir in the chopped chocolate chunks.

Form cookies using 2 tablespoons of cookie dough (or 1 tablespoon for standard sized cookies). Drop onto a cookie sheet and sprinkle lightly with fleur de sel. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Allow the cookies to rest on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Provence & The French Riviera

Villefranche-sur-Mer, France

After a whirlwind of a week in Paris, my mother and I appreciated the more laidback lifestyle found in southern France. During the second half of our holiday, we traveled through Provence and the French Rivieraa  more colorful side to France. The first night away from Paris was spent in Arles, a small Provence town dotted with Roman archaeological sites and the birthplace of Van Gogh's many prized paintings. Though it was only a few hours away by train, Arles stood in stark contrast to Paris. Where the muted colors of Paris so beautifully matched the rain-streaked skies, the bright reds and blues of Arles complemented the warm sun and radiant demeanor of the residents. The streets of Arles were made for walking, as they meandered throughout the old city, encouraging pedestrians to stroll leisurely through the web of cobblestone paths.

It was an instantaneous love.

Cassis, in Provence, France
Cassis, in Provence, France
Cassis, in Provence, France
Nice, France

Where Paris had been difficult to love, Arles was effortless. My mother and I ate pear sorbet through the streets, wondering how many women had broken their ankles walking in heels on the rough stone paths. We dined with a guitar serenade in the most charming restaurant of the trip, enjoying pockets of warm goat cheese with olive tapenade. The rush of Paris had dissipated and the slow moving lifestyle of Provence had filled its place. Arles was the change of tune I needed. When the time came, it was difficult to leave. 

Aix-en-Provence was next on the list, a larger city than Arles, filled with restaurants and outdoor markets. We used it as a base to tour Cassis and the Luberon Villages of Lourmarin, Roussillon, and Gordes. Even though each town was a short drive from the next, each location was so vastly different in architecture and history. I found it astounding.

Roussillon was painted in reds and oranges, each building an homage to the rouged dirt beneath. The white cliffs of the small fishing town of Cassis contrasted against the brightly colored yellow and pink buildings. The tight-knit community of Lourmarin made me imagine a simpler time and place. Truthfully, all of these cities felt like a pull back into the past, a glimpse of life hundreds of years ago.

Rousillon, in Provence, France
Lavender Fields, in Provence, France
Arles, in Provence, France
Arles, France

The last stop of the trip was in Nice. A sunny city on the Mediterranean, it was a lovely place to spend our last few days in France. We stayed with a friendly host who prepared fantastic breakfasts from fresh, local ingredients and helped us find our way around the city. Everything about Nice was pleasant, from the maze of small streets in Old Town to the Promenade des Anglais along the Mediterranean sea. Full of Italian pasta, we laid on the rocky beach, took a nap in the sun, and did plenty of people watching.

We found little to complain about, enjoying the slow speed life seemed to move at here.

Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
Cassis, in Provence, France
Lourmarin & Monaco, France

From Nice, my mother and I took one last day trip to Villefranche-sur-Mer and Monaco before our trip came to a close. While Monaco was my least favorite stop of the tripin part due to the industrialized look and feel and a case of low blood sugarVillefranche-sur-Mer was one of the most treasured. The multicolored umbrellas lining the sandy beach made for a beautiful sight and an even better place to spend an afternoon. Looking back, the memory has a warm, fuzzy haze around the edges, a dreamy feel for a dreamy moment. 

Overall, the trip to France was a wonderful holiday. I loved getting to spend time with my mother, who was (and will always be) a great travel companion and friend. The pastries were rich and sweet, the sights were larger than life, and the people were friendly and kind.

Someday, someday, I'll come back and do it all again.

Nice, France
Nice, France