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

ingredients:
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

instructions:
• 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

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lucy Lean May 2, 2012 at 5:53 pm

I love cooking cake in a jar – and thanks for the heads up re Teacher Appreciation week – those kind of things seem to pass the French system by!

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2 najwa kronfel May 2, 2012 at 6:37 pm

What a nice detail! I love both the cakes and the flowers, I love to save jars too. There are a lot of things we can do with them! Great post!

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3 Susan May 2, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Thanks, Najwa! Saving glass jars has become somewhat of an obsession. One can usually find a pot of boiling water on my stove with a few glass vessels in it (sterilzing, cleaning, and getting the labels off). Recently, I gave a friend a jar of my lentil pate/spread and put it in an old jelly jar. Before even looking to see what was inside she commented on the jar!! Plus, we are being green! Win, Win.

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4 Allison [Girl's Guide to Social Media] May 2, 2012 at 11:04 pm

These are lovely! One week doesn’t seem like ample time for Teacher Appreciation. It should definitely be longer!

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5 Kim May 3, 2012 at 3:58 am

It is a great way to say thank you to your kids teachers… You see, I’m a teacher too but I teach to teenagers (16-17 years old)… I wish some parents say thanks to me… I think I hear it from 4 or 5 parents a year… Anyway, it’s great to know that there is some parents like you, Suzann!

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6 Susan May 3, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Kudos to you, Kim for doing such a noble and rewarding job. I brought lunch to the teachers yesterday and they thanked me over and over again. They are putting up with our kids, ALL DAY, it’s the least we can do!

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7 Barb Bamber May 3, 2012 at 6:51 am

These are so pretty and a real treat for a teacher to receive.. I love your flower vase idea as well! I taught for 16 years.. and parents like you were our gift:) xo Smidge

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8 Susan May 3, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Barb – I always thought I would have been a teacher, but life took me in another direction. Good for you for spending 16 years being a mentor – you should be really proud of that!

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9 marla May 3, 2012 at 8:39 am

Those lucky teachers!! Such nice gifts Susan :)

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10 HeatherChristo May 3, 2012 at 10:54 am

These are so, so cute!! What a sweetheart you are thinking of them in such a heartfelt way. The best gifts are homemade.

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11 Susan May 3, 2012 at 1:15 pm

I agree, Heather. I have always made homemade gifts for the teachers. Everyone buys them Sees Candy (don’t get me wrong – love the stuff), but this just sends a different message!

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12 Amanda May 3, 2012 at 12:43 pm

You have the biggest heart!! Such a great idea. :)

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13 Veronica of Muy Bueno May 4, 2012 at 4:45 am

Such a beautiful post and for such a good cause…I’m biased of course, being a teacher myself. Your post has inspired me to make something for my son’s teacher and maybe a little something for each of my daughter’s middle school teachers. Gracias amiga!

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14 Susan May 4, 2012 at 8:24 am

You are a teacher? Bless you! In the past I have always made my son’s middle school teachers various treats. However, right now, his three favorite teacher are on maternity leave!? And he’s graduating. Leaves more room for me to give to the art teacher, crossing guard, and music teachers!!

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15 Patricia Scarpin May 4, 2012 at 10:06 am

You are kind and sweet and wonderful, too, my dear. What a lovely post. Those cakes are too cute! Love the flowers, too.
xx

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16 Susan May 4, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Thanks, Patricia! Missing you and our “on-line” conversations! Besitos!

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17 aida mollenkamp May 4, 2012 at 12:06 pm

What a fabulous idea for Teacher Appreciation Week! I’ll have to bake one of these little guys up for my best friend who is a special ed teacher!

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18 Christina @ The Hungry Australian May 6, 2012 at 1:16 am

What a lovely way to show your appreciation. I’m sure your kids’ teachers love seeing those brown bags on their desks :)

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19 sally cameron May 7, 2012 at 9:16 am

You are a gem Susan and I’m sure you will never know how much those teachers appreciate you, your kindness and generosity. And I agree on brown butter! It makes everything better. Love the flower vases, pretty photo. And although I don’t keep baked goods in the house much, this sounds fantastic. Will have to try the recipe. Thanks!

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20 Susan May 7, 2012 at 11:28 am

Thanks, Sally. I don’t necessarily need something sweet every day, but I do confess to needing a piece (or two) of dark chocolate after a meal or as a mid afternoon pick me up! The muffins/cake did receive rave reviews and there were multitude requests for the recipe. With that, I think you should put on your “to-do” list!

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21 Kristina Vanni May 7, 2012 at 1:03 pm

How fun! Such a great way to show you care. I love the idea!

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22 Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen May 11, 2012 at 4:10 am

Teachers are so under appreciated, they are huge influences on our children and do such an important job. This is a fabulous way to say thank you!

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23 Susan May 16, 2012 at 12:09 pm

thanks, Sylvie! I try and do something like this often and a little bit goes such a long way!

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24 Heidi Leon May 16, 2012 at 12:45 am

I tend to think cakes in a jar are sometimes overly pretty but rarely good in taste. However, yours look not just look lovely but the recipe really invites me to give it a try. Brown butter AND zucchini?. Can´t wait to make this!

And yes, teachers deserve daily recognition.

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25 Susan May 16, 2012 at 12:11 pm

thanks, Heidi! It is nice when both components come together; taste and presentation.

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