Zucchini Nut Muffins

img_0482.jpg

Will and I may disagree a little on this one. He heard “zucchini” and immediately said “NO”.  But for a muffin with some squash in it, these are pretty dang tasty.

Back in Weslaco, Texas my mom made these little gems often.  I believe the recipe came from a friend in town and my sister and I love them.  In fact, when Laura made the seven-and-a-half hour move to Baylor University these muffins became part of care packages sent her way.  I remember packing them up and more than once making sure the precious cargo got in the hands of a loving, die-hard Baylor couple from the church that would be making the trek up north.  When I went to Baylor a few years later you best be sure plans were made to send me some as well.

Zucchini Nut Muffins have everything right about them – they are just a little sweet, always moist, have a crunch from the nuts and they freeze well.  One batch makes 24 muffins so they are great grab-and-go breakfast options or make an easy brunch offering.

Let’s go back to our college days for just a few minutes: What’s in your care package?  You can fill mine with Zucchini Nut Muffins any day.


Zucchini Nut Muffins

-This recipe makes 24 muffins-
  • 2 c shredded, unpeeled zucchini*
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c corn oil
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 2 c flour
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1 c chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts)

Preheat your oven to 400.  Grease two muffin tins or line the cups with baking liners.

*When you shred the zucchini be sure to leave the peel on.  Just wash the produce, chop the stem off and then use a grater to shred it up.  To get 2 cups of shredded zucchini you will need roughly one large or 2-3 small veggies.  Be sure you concentrate just as hard as I am 😉

In a large bowl, combine the shredded zucchini, eggs, oil and vanilla.

Why use corn oil?  Corn oil has a slightly higher smoke point than other oils and is essentially flavorless, both which make it nice for baking. If you don’t have corn oil on hand, reach for the vegetable oil for the same end results.

IMG_0460

Add the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and baking powder.

Add in the nuts and stir until moistened.

It’s completely up to you which nut you use but the most common choices are pecans and walnuts.  More often than not, I’ll go with pecan.  If you have halves on hand, chop them up a bit.  I like to leave some large pieces for texture throughout the muffins so I don’t worry about keeping the sizes of the pieces too even.

Fill the muffin cups about two-thirds full.

Bake for 18 minutes.

Let the muffins sit for a couple minutes in the pan, then move them to a wire rack to cool.

Once cooled, the muffins freeze and reheat very nicely.

What do you think?  Does the squash-in-a-muffin scare you off or are you intrigued?  Mix up a batch and let me know how you like them!


Full Recipe

Zucchini Nut Muffins

  • 2 c shredded, unpeeled zucchini (about 1 large, 2-3 small veggies)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c corn oil
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 2 c flour
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1 c chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts)

Preheat oven to 400.

Grease muffin tins or line with baking liners.

Combine zucchini, eggs, oil and vanilla.

Add remaining ingredients and stir until moistened.

Fill muffin cups ⅔ full.

Bake 18 minutes.

Let cool on rack.

Yields: 24

Freezer Meal: Make Ahead Mini Chicken Pot Pies

IMG_0185

I love to have ready-to-go meals in the freezer for a few reasons: they are easy to share with friends and family, they are great food gifts when someone needs a night or two free from dinner planning and prepping, and there is always a time or two when you just want to grab something out of the freezer, warm it up and relax for the night.  These Make Ahead Mini Chicken Pot Pies are perfect for all of these reasons.

Chicken Pot Pie is such a classic comfort food.  The crust, the veggies, the gravy… it all just makes for a warm, tummy-filling dinner.  This recipe makes 6 mini CPPs – and while they may look small, one CPP is a pretty filling dinner!  Will and I are pretty adamant about the double-crust on a good CPP so these have a layer of premade pie dough on both the bottom and top.   You can be fancy and make your own pie dough for these… but if I am looking for a quick, easy freezer meal I’m going to reach in the cold case for the premade version.

Plan ahead and pick up 6-7 mini aluminum loaf pans when you plan on making this recipe.  I find them in the baking aisle with all the other disposable aluminum baking pans.  These also add to the no-fuss, individualized gift-giving option of the CPP – who wants to worry about giving/getting back a dish?! 😉  I’ve also easily doubled this recipe and made up to 15 CPPs to freeze at a time.  Heads up if you double – I usually feel that the gravy doesn’t thicken as much as I like it to in the doubled version and add a little cornstarch slurry as it cooks to help it out.  We’ll talk about that more down in the recipe.

Did a new neighbor just move in? Do you have a friend with a busy week that could use a go-to dinner? Try these Make Ahead Mini Chicken Pot Pies out and share!  I won’t tell though if you make a batch just for your own freezer… 🙂


Make Ahead Mini Chicken Pot Pies

 Yield: six pot pies per recipe

  • 1 ½ -2 lbs. chicken – breast, thigh, tenders – boneless and diced
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 48 oz. chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/3 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1 1/3 cup celery, diced
  • 1 shallot or onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas
  • 15 oz. box refrigerated pie crust (two pie crusts)
  • Disposable aluminum mini loaf pans (at least 6 per recipe)

Remove the pie crusts from their box and set on the the counter to warm to room temperature.  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  If I am making one recipe, I tend to use chicken tenders or breasts, whichever is on sale at the store when I shop for groceries.  If I am doubling the recipe, I’ll grab one package of white meat and a package of chicken thighs.  Thighs are incredibly tasty, and inexpensive, and they work well in this dish.  Use whatever you like or have on hand!

IMG_0043

Brown the chicken until cooked through, about 7-8 minutes – work in batches if you are doubling the recipe so that you don’t crowd and cool the pan.  Remove the cooked chicken to a plate and set aside.

Melt the butter in the now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the carrots, celery and shallot or onion.  Don’t forget when you are chopping up your celery:  there is a ton of great flavor in the leaves of the celery stalks.  Use the bright green, tender leaves in the center of your bunch (on the left of the picture below) and avoid the darker, larger leaves on the outside (top-right of the picture below) for best taste.

IMG_0045

Stir occasionally and cook the veggies until lightly browned and softened.

IMG_0048

Add the flour to the veggies and whisk for about 1 minute, making a light roux.

IMG_0049

Add the broth and milk and whisk until it thickens, about 5 minutes or so.  Remove from heat.

This is where we need to talk about the cornstarch slurry.  As you can see from the picture above, when I make a double batch of these CPPs, as was the case in these photos, I start the gravy in a separate pot.  This is just because in a double batch there are a TON of veggies to incorporate.  It does take longer to thicken in a double batch and in this instance it wasn’t getting as thick as I liked.  Think about what you want – the sauce will thicken a little as it cools, but you want a sort of biscuits-and-gravy, custardy consistency to this so that it is scoopable to place into the pie crusts and so that it freezes well.  As the gravy was cooking, I ended up adding a slurry of about 1/4 cup of cornstarch and 1/4 cup of water.  That definitely helped to get things going!

Add the cooked chicken (and veggies if using a separate pot to make the gravy) to the thickened gravy.  Taste and adjust your seasoning if needed.  Set this aside or in the fridge to cool completely.  I have even made the CPP filling the night before and let the whole batch chill in the fridge overnight until ready to scoop into CPPs.  (I know you see peas in that picture below… don’t worry, they are coming.  My picture-taking timing was a little off here!)

IMG_0053

Spray each mini aluminum loaf pan with a nonstick cooking spray.  **THIS IS IMPORTANT!**

Unwrap one pie crust and roll it out on a flour dusted counter. Using the mini loaf pan as a guide/template, cut a bottom layer of dough for each mini loaf pan.  Place it in the bottom of each mini loaf pan.

Unwrap the other pie crust, unroll it onto your floured counter, and cut a top crust for each mini loaf pan.   Cut a few slits into each top crust to vent the crust. At this point, I sometimes get a little creative with the dough scraps.  I use them to cover the top, leaving little vents here and there where the dough scraps don’t exactly meet up.  You could also cut the dough into strips and make a weaving pattern across the top ala a dessert pie if you wanted to be super fancy.  You do you when it comes to CPP top crusts.

Grab the filling mixture from it’s chilling location and stir in the frozen peas.  Spoon the filling evenly into each mini loaf pan on top of the bottom layer of dough. Top each loaf with a pie crust – remembering to have some slits or places for steam to escape when baking.

From here, it’s either cook or freeze!

To cook now: 

Brush the top crust with an egg wash (whisk one egg with about a tablespoon of water in a small bowl). Place on a sheet tray and in a 400 degree oven, covered with foil, for about 20 minutes, then uncover and bake another 20-30 until crusts are golden brown.  Let sit a few minutes before serving.

To freeze: 

Wrap each CPP well with plastic wrap and aluminum foil.  I like to then put two CPPs in a gallon freezer bag or vacuum storage bag and seal them up in pairs.

Freeze up to 2 months.

To cook from frozen:

No need to thaw out the CPP!  Unwrap the pot pies and place on a sheet pan.  Brush the top of the frozen CPP with egg wash (whisk one egg with about a tablespoon of water in a small bowl) and replace just the foil on top of the CPP.  Cook at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.  Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes.  Let the pies sit a few minutes before serving.

Want a handy tag for printing the cooking instructions?  Click here!

IMG_0184

What’s your favorite freezer meal?  Let me know what you like and how these super delicious Make Ahead Mini Chicken Pot Pies work out for you!


Full Recipe

Make Ahead Mini Chicken Pot Pies

  • 1 ½ -2 lbs. chicken – breast, thigh, tenders – boneless and diced
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 48 oz. chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/3 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1 1/3 cup celery, diced
  • 1 shallot or onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas
  • 15 oz. box refrigerated pie crust (two pie crusts)
  • Disposable aluminum mini loaf pans – at least 6 per recipe

Remove pie crusts from box and set on counter to thaw/warm to room temp.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

Brown the chicken until cooked through, about 7-8 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Melt the butter in the empty Dutch oven over medium heat.

Add the carrots, celery, and shallot/onion.

Stir occasionally and cook until lightly browned.

Add the flour to the vegetables and whisk for 1 minute.

Add the broth and milk and whisk until it thickens, about 5 minutes or so.

Remove from heat.

Add the chicken to the sauce, season with salt and pepper, and mix well.

Cover and refrigerate until completely cooled.

Spray each mini loaf pan with cooking spray.

Unwrap one pie crust, unroll it on a flour dusted counter.

Cut a bottom crust for each loaf pan, place in the bottom of each mini loaf pan.

Unwrap the second pie crust. Cut a top crust, or use the scraps, for each mini loaf pan.

Cut 3 steam vents in each top crust.

Remove the vegetable/sauce mixture from the refrigerator. Uncover the bowl and mix in the frozen peas.

Spoon the mixture into 6 mini loaf tins evenly.

Top each with a pie crust.

 

Wrap well in plastic wrap and aluminum foil.

Freeze up to 2 months.

 

To cook from frozen:

Unwrap the pot pies and place on a sheet pan.  Brush the top of the frozen pot pie with egg wash and replace just the foil on top of the CPP.  Cook at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.  Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes.  Let the pies sit a few minutes before serving.