Magic Muffins

Ah, muffins. So beloved. Even people who cannot or choose not to eat them seem to be sad about the situation. But vegetables? Poor, venerated vegetables … why do so many people claim to hate them? I believe their bad reputation is undeserved. And that’s where Magic Muffins come in.

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Vegetable Horror Stories

Nearly every time someone tells me they don’t like vegetables, the issue is not really the vegetable. A story emerges about vegetables that were not prepared well. The most frequent? Boiled okra … soft, mushy, gummy, traumatizingly awful okra. Each time I hear this tale, I feel as sorry for the okra as I do for the humans who had to eat it! 

Kids are especially suspicious of vegetables. And why not, when you get nasty surprises instead of tasty treats? Just getting kids to take one taste is hard. They say things like, “That looks weird,” and “Eww! What is that?” and “I’m not gonna try that.” As a kid, my veggie issues were not with okra. We never had it at our house. But spinach…. 

Spinach and me … we had a love/hate thing. As a toddler, I liked spinach so much I’d try to sneak it from the refrigerator: it’s documented in an old family photo, or I wouldn’t believe it. As a primary school-aged kid I despised it—specifically, canned spinach. It always tasted a little like “can” to me. 

When spinach was served, I would try to figure out how to avoid eating that canned spinach or disguise the flavor in other foods. Nothing worked … including the time I dropped spinach into my sweet tea thinking I could leave the table without finishing my tea. I thought I was so clever. Almost 50 years later, I can still recall the taste. Mmmm … tea, sugar, spinach, can.

Make Friends with Vegetables

Nowadays, I buy fresh spinach. I love adding it to smoothies, eating it in salads, and cooking it in a wide variety of dishes. Sometimes, I even serve it as a side dish.

That’s the thing about vegetables—they are very versatile. And a vegetable—however you decide to use it—will probably taste delicious if it’s been prepared well. Is there such a thing as a vegetable connoisseur? Because I really feel that, as with any well prepared thing, you don’t have to actually “like” the thing to appreciate the quality of it. 

Magic Muffins Stealth Mode

For those who just can’t stomach the idea of eating a vegetable, sometimes the best path is the path of least resistance … put it in another food that you know they want to eat. For my foster kids, these muffins did the trick. They taste like a sweet treat but are packed with zucchini. 

I made some revisions to the recipe “Best Ever Zucchini Bread” from Butter with a Side of Bread on Yummly.  I add milk to the recipe to make it easier to pour the mix into a muffin tin. When serving it to children, I dice the grated zucchini into little green bits to further camouflage the vegetable. My optional recipe addition—flax—provides dietary fiber. The muffins taste sinful enough that my husband Paul feels guilty about eating them, even though they pack about the same calories as breakfast bars and are likely more nutritious.

A Muffin by Another Name Might Not Get Eaten

I renamed the recipe when my foster kids asked what those little green things were in their muffins. My answer, “Magic! These are magic muffins.” The real magic? Call it wrong not to name an ingredient out loud, but these kids—who resisted daily almost every manner of vegetable—ate all of those muffins and asked me to make them again … and again. On the rare occasions I iced them, they were called magic cupcakes.    

I’ve made Magic Muffins without nuts. I’ve made them with pecans, walnuts, and a mix of the two. I’ve made them with and without flax. I’ve made them with oil, applesauce, strawberry-applesauce and a blend of oil and sauce. I’ve made them with dairy milk, almond milk and buttermilk. And now, since I feel like I’ve written some recipe version of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham….  

Say, I like them! I like Magic Muffins! I will eat them on a boat. I will eat them in my coat. I will eat them in a hat. And I will eat them with my cat. I’ll eat them at the kitchen bar. I will eat them in a car. I will eat them here and there. I will eat them everywhere.

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Magic Muffins

What a great magic trick: this substantial muffin tastes sweet enough to be a cupcake but packs a punch of magic—zucchini—to help get those vegetable servings even in something that feels like a splurge. And if you want to splurge, ice them and make them magic cupcakes!
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Keyword muffin, zucchini
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 24 muffins
Author Lisa Kamolnick / Food Passages

Equipment

  • muffin tin(s)

Ingredients

  • 1 C white sugar
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tsp flax optional
  • 1 C vegetable oil OR substitute ⅓ to ¾ C of oil with applesauce strawberry applesauce, or other applesauce blend
  • ¼ C milk
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 C flour
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 C grated zucchini 1 medium zucchini works well, and you can add more
  • 1 C chopped nuts walnut or pecan, optional

Instructions

  • In large mixing bowl, mix sugar, eggs flax, oil, milk and vanilla extract on medium speed.
  • Add spices, salt, baking powder and baking soda and mix.
  • Gradually add flour and mix.
  • Preheat oven to 325° F.
  • Clean and grate 1 medium zucchini. Drain all liquid from grated zucchini. Chop finely and add to mix.
  • After zucchini is thoroughly integrated, stir in nuts.
  • Line muffin tins with cupcake liners and spoon mix to about 3/4 full in each cup.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes until pick comes out clean. Cool on baking rack and remove from tin.
  • Serve or store cooled muffins.

Notes

Tips
  • When stored properly, Magic Muffins last about five to seven days.
  • If you use a sauce substitute for the oil, using buttermilk adds moisture to the mix. 
Serving Suggestions
These are great not only for breakfast but also for snack time. Add some icing and serve them as magic cupcakes. As mini-muffins, they’d make a fun, lower calorie snack.