Appreciation, Gratitude, + Cake in a Jar

May 2, 2012

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I am blessed. My kids are blessed and we, as a family are fortunate and grateful. Grateful to live in the community that we live in. Fortunate to have our local, public, charter school inhabit wonderful families, creative and developmental learning, and the best of the best teachers.

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. I have never quite understood why only one week a year is designated to appreciating our teachers. I try and let my teachers know, weekly, how wonderful they are. Levi’s kinder teacher has been teaching for 30 years. She’s has been in our life since 2003 when Eli entered kindergarten.  I pat her on the back, daily. I volunteer often and one can almost see me sprinting out of the room when my duties have been completed. I do love my kids, as well as others, but I could never do what she does. As far as I am concerned, she is a saint. Isaac’s teacher is a gift from above. The big guy above put her on this planet to do exactly what she was intended to do and her passion shows through, beyond 2:45 dismissal bell. Next month, Isaac is culminating and moving on to middle school. He will find those rare gems along the way, but none as fine and authentic as Mrs. Thom. She will be in our lives for many years to come.

A week assigned to appreciation is an excuse for me to be creative and assemble something out of the ordinary. A few weeks back I bookmarked a recipe for Brown Butter Carrot + Apple Muffins from Cannelle et Vanille. After reading the ingredients, I knew I wanted to make them or some version there of. With both carrots and zucchini in in my vegetable drawer, I gravitated toward the zucchini. Loving the combination of zucchini and chocolate, like this loaf, I started organizing my ingredients.

The addition of brown butter to this recipe was a huge selling point. Brown butter, whether in pasta, over fish, and especially in baked goods gives any dish that nutty, robust, unique flavor while at the same time brings out the essence of all of the other components and ingredients. This muffin/cake is no exception.

Aran’s original recipe was for muffins. It doesn’t have to be this special week for me to make muffins for the teachers. One can often find me walking my kids in to school in the mornings carrying a little brown bag filled with scones, muffins, granola bars, and more. Just last week, I baked off a fresh batch of these almond strawberry scones and left them on each of their teacher’s desks. I am no longer greeted with furrowed, confused brows. They see those bags coming and they know exactly what to expect.

The addition of cream cheese frosting left over from a cake made earlier in the week was a welcome accessories to these moist, light, and healthful little cakes. Adding the frosting was an after thought. Originally, I was going to sprinkle a bit of confectioners’ sugar over the top. But,  you all know how I feel about waste…and if you don’t, I hate wasting anything. I had just the right amount of frosting to add to all of the cakes as well as the additional muffins.

Flowers accompanied the treats. Saving glass jars from maple syrup, jams, mustard’s, and olives creates the most creative vases. These seltzer bottles were the perfect size for a small bouquet of Gerber daisies. Appreciating one’s teacher, advisor, coach, the parking attendant, or even the crossing guard should be a daily practice. And, it doesn’t take much, nor does it have to cost a fortune to say “thank you”.

Brown Butter, Zucchini, Bittersweet Chocolate, + Pecan Cake
the batter of this cake/muffin is so wonderfully balanced that almost any fruit and vegetable combination will work.
adapted from here
yield: 28 mini muffins | 6 1-cup cake in a jar | 14 2-ounce muffins

5 ounces | 140 grams | 10 tablespoons organic, unsalted butter
5 ounces | 140 grams | 1 cup superfine brown rice flour
1 3/4 ounces  | 50 grams | 1/2 cup hazelnut flour
1/2 ounce | 13 grams | 2 tablespoons tapioca starch
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 large, organic eggs, room temperature
2 1/2 ounces | 70 grams | 1/3 cup sucanat
3 3/4 ounces maple syrup | 109 grams | 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
10 ounces | 300 grams | 1 1/2 cups zucchini, grated (about 2 medium)
4 ounces | 74 grams | 1/2 cup mini, bittersweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 ounces | 41 ounces | 1/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 1/2  cups cream cheese frosting

• preheat oven to 350*
• using a 2 tablespoons of butter and a piece of wax paper, grease the muffin cups or glass jars. set aside on a parchment lined, rimmed baking sheet.
• in a small saucepan or a cast iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat until the brown bits form start to appear on the bottom of the pan. let cool slightly.
• in a medium bowl, mix the eggs, maple syrup, and vanilla until incorporated.
• in another bowl, whisk the dry ingredients, including the sugar.
• add the wet ingredients, including the butter, to the dry ingredients. using a rubber spatula, mix to combine.
• add the zucchini, chocolate chips, and pecans and mix until all combined.
• scoop batter into individual muffin cups or glass jars, a little less than 3/4 full.
• place in preheated oven and bake for 18-26 minutes, depending upon what size vessel you are using.
• let cool completely before frosting. or simply dust with confectioners’ sugar.
• enjoy!

More Gluten Free Muffins around the Web:
Lemon Berry Protein MuffinsDamy Health
Lemon Coconut Poppyseed Muffins – Guilty Kitchen
Vegan Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins – Veggie Num Num
Gluten Free Whole Grain Muffins – Gluten Free Girl