Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

When I was little my mother use to make zucchini bread all the time and I thought her bat shit crazy for it. Who puts vegetables in bread?! More to the point, who, of sound mind and their own convictions, would put vegetables in dessert?!?!?! BLASPHEMY! (Yes… I used words like blasphemy when I was seven. Well, not really, but let’s pretend I did so my childhood seems more interesting). None the less, this is the reason I have yet to try carrot cake, though I feel that solid streak of nearly 24 years is coming to an end. Other than the fact that I’ve become more adventurous with my food, came a challenge from my sister-in-law in the form a link to a zucchini cake recipe. “Make this please”. I obliged, despite my deep seeded fear of vegetable based confections, but decided to lighten it up a bit. The resulting cupcakes were a success, if I may say so myself. If I had one complaint it would be that the cupcakes came out of the oven a little too moist, an issue that could probably be fixed with some oven manipulation. So it seems I have been converted. When I have my first piece of carrot cake, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, please enjoy these chocolaty delights!

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Makes 24 servings: 172 calories | 29g carbs | 2g protein | 6g fat  (with icing)

145 calories | 25g carbs | 2g protein | 5g far (without icing)

Here’s what you need!

For the cupcakes

2 cups of flour

2 cups of sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used dark chocolate)

4 egg whites

1/2 cup applesauce (I used a no sugar added version)

1/2 cup canola oil

3 cups of grated zucchini

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

For the icing

4 ounces of reduced fat cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1-4 tbsp of water or almond milk

Here’s what you do!

1. Preheat your oven to 350˚. Using a mixer, combine all the ingredients except the zucchini.

2. Fold the zucchini into the batter until completely mixed.

3. Fill your cupcake tins!

4. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserting in the center comes out clean. I could take a little long… so be patient. Upping the temperature to 375˚ could take care of that… it might also enhance the texture… but I don’t know for sure… I ran out of zucchini. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before icing.

For the icing

1. Mix everything together!!!! Use water or almond milk a tablespoon at a time to get the desired consistency. It’s so easy, right?! It almost feels too easy.

Happy noshing!!

Inside-out Lemon Meringue Pie

Okay… so it’s not technically a pie anymore. But let’s be honest, it’s a catchy name. Am I wrong?

Lemon meringue pie has been my favorite rare treats since I was eight years old. I can’t get enough of it. But sadly, when you are trying to eat healthier, you don’t get the luxury of a pie very often. And when you have the sweetest of sweet teeth, as I do, this can make you sad. That’s why I came up with this idea. These individual serving treats have all the goodness of a traditional lemon meringue pie with about half the calories and without that sad look on your face for having to cut a baby-sized slice!

Why inside out? Well, because meringues are one of the neatest things on the planet, that’s why!. That fluffy yumminess that usually sits on top of a lemon meringue pie can also be baked into a cookie that melts in your mouth! And since they are made with egg whites there are much lower in calories than a traditional cookie. So rather than mess with rolling out dough and blind baking pie shells and all that nonsense, I decided to just make meringue cookies. By piping them to form a sort of “bowl” there is a place in the center for a delicious lemon filling, and I topped it with some graham cracker crumbles for some crunchy goodness!

A couple of things to remember when you are preparing meringues:

Make sure there is no trace of shell or yolk in your egg whites when you separate them. Meringues, though delicious, are quite picky and will don’t behave properly if other parts of the egg try to join the party.

Use a very clean glass or metal mixing bowl. Plastic bowls can hold traces of oils that will make your egg whites angry. I did make meringue successfully in a plastic bowl once, but I’m sure it was dumb luck because I’ve had egg whites rebel from me for lesser offenses (possible story to come…one time I spent a whole two weeks making meringue based desserts… I destroyed many baby chicken souls).

Be excited when the eggs whites start working their magic. Because it’s just awesome how big and fluffy they get!

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Nutritional Info

Recipe makes 6 servings at | 144 calories | 29g carbs | 3g protein | 2g fat

I know, I know. The carbs are up there. But I mean, it’s a dessert. You’re calorie content may differ if you make ingredient substitutions.

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Here’s what you need:

Meringue                                                                                                                

2 egg whites at room temperature (save the yolks!)

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp lemon peel (optional, but I find it adds a nice flavor)

1/2 cup sugar (the finer the better. I can not attest to whether or not artificial or alternative sweeteners will work, I only had sugar)

Lemon Filling                                                                                                          

1 egg + 2 yolks (remember how I told you to save them!)

1/4 cup sugar

the peel and juice from 1 1/2 lemons

3 tablespoons water

1 tsp cornstarch

Topping                                                                                                      

1 1/2 graham crackers (I used a low-fat honey graham cracker. You can omit it if you wish, but I find that it is necessary. Have you ever tried the Jell-O Temptations Lemon Meringue Pie? It’s delicious, but the whole time I found myself saying “this needs a crusty bit”. Hence the graham cracker)

Equipment  

electric mixer (I’m sure if you worked really hard you could whip it by hand… but that sounds like the least amount of fun ever. One time I tried making butter by hand like I was Amish… it didn’t go well)

1 medium/large bowl

spatula

piping bag and large decorating tip (a gallon zip-loc bag with a hole cut in the corner will work just fine)  

parchment paper

some sort of 3 inch diameter circular object (cookie cutter or soup can)

pen

cookie sheet

1 small bowl

whisk

small sauce pan

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The nice thing about this treat is that everything is made ahead of time. All you have to do is assemble it when you are ready to nosh. **Do not store assembled. Meringue cookies hate humidity and cold and will cry if they are exposed to either (I mean they will literally weep). Store the meringues in an air tight container, and the filling in the refrigerator.**

For the meringue cookies (aka the crust of our “pies”)

1. Pre-heat your oven to 200˚F

2. Take your parchment paper and trace six circles on it, roughly an inch apart. Flip the parchment paper over (so that the side you drew on if facing down) and place on the cookie sheet.

3. Combine egg whites, cream of tartar and lemon juice in medium/large bowl. Use mixer to whip them into submission. You will know you succeeded when the mixture is white, at least doubled in size and you can forms soft peaks.

4. Add lemon peel  and salt to eggs. Continue to beat (medium/medium high-speed) and slowly add in sugar. You want to make sure the sugar is getting time is dissolve. If there are undissolved sugar crystals in the meringue when you bake them, you risk them caramelization… and then you will be a sad panda.

5. Continue to beat your egg whites until they become glossy and form stiff peaks. This is the one time I feel as though you can not over beat an egg white. I mean, don’t go to town for 20 minutes or anything. 5-7 minutes should be fine!

6. Use a spatula to transfer your meringue into your piping bag (1/3 to 1/2 the mixture at a time so you don’t make a mess). To create the “crust” starting piping in the center of one of the circles you traced and move in circles until you reach the line. Then go around the outside edge one last time; by doing this you create a sort of bowl for the filling to sit in!

7. Bake in the oven for 3 hours. Do your best to leave them alone. They are fine in there, I promise. After three hours the cookies should feel sort of hollow when tapped on the bottom and will pull away from the parchment paper easily. At this point you can either cool them on the counter, or turn off the over and leave them in there. Place in an airtight container to store.

**In a perfect world there would be no humidity to ruin the greatness that is a meringue. Unfortunately, the world is not perfect. It is best to make meringues on a non-rainy day. But if you simply can’t wait (I made mine while it was raining… in the Pacific Northwest… I don’t often get a choice) and they were fine. You just have to be mindful. If there is moisture in the air, leave the meringues in the oven while they cool. If you do everything right and your cookies still cry (they are emotional little buggars sometimes) simply place them in a 200˚ oven for 30-40 minutes and they will dry back out. I had to do that…and it wasn’t the end of the world.**

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For the filling

1. Place the egg, egg yolks and sugar in a small bowl. Attack with a whisk until nicely combined.

2. In a small sauce pan, combine lemon juice, zest and water. Heat until boiling (it’s not a lot of liquid, it won’t take long)

3. Once the lemon juice is at a boil, reduce the heat. Pour about 1/4 cup of the heated lemon juice into the egg/sugar mixture and mix well. This is called tempering and is essential to ensuring you don’t end up with sweetened scrambled eggs.

4. Pour everything in the sauce pan, add the cornstarch and cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning/sticking. The mixture will begin to thicken and bubble. It’ll be big bubbles… kind of like *ploops* and will begin to resemble pudding or custard.

Transfer to a storage bowl to cool. Store in the refrigerator until ready to eat!

Tasting time!

Each serving will have one meringue cookie and a little less than a tablespoon of lemon filling. Take 1/4 of a graham cracker, crush it up and sprinkle on top.

Happy noshing!

Recipe requests? Email them to thehardboiledlife@gmail.com!