I’m feeling low on inspiration. I’ve spent this week seeing real estate agents, drawing up “punch lists” (gah!) for crap that must be done to our condo to make it appealing to buyers, trying to trim down our belongings, take care of Little Bird, cook, clean, do laundry, and all the other things that make up everyday life.
Real estate agents, you say? Yes, change is in the wind. After 21 years of living in Southern California, I am moving with My Guy and Little Bird back to Northern California, where I grew up. We are moving for family reasons, for work reasons, and for quality of life reasons. L.A. feels too crowded, too noisy, and too polluted for us now.
Instead of a small condo less than a mile away from a major freeway, we are looking for a bit of land where we can grow vegetables, raise chickens and a goat or two, and have some fresh air. I would also like a donkey, if it’s not too much to ask. They’re just so cute, with their big ears. I will name it Delmer.
Anyways, life feels a bit crazy and out-of-control right now. Therefore, it must be time to bake muffins. Muffin-baking for me is a meditative endeavor with a big payoff. You whisk a little of this, a little of that, mix it all together into cute little cups, and blammo! You have a delicious, hot-from-the-oven carb blast to coax those little endorphins out of their hiding places.
These muffins feature an exotic ingredient called mesquite flour, which has a slightly smoky, slightly sweet and nutty flavor. I first learned about mesquite flour in David Lebovitz‘s beautiful blog, Living the Sweet Life in Paris. When I read his post about Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies, I became obsessed with finding mesquite flour — not an easy task.
I finally found some at Casa de Fruta, of all places, which is an overgrown fruit stand near Hollister, on the Pacheco Pass between the I-5 and the I-101. It’s as corny a place as you will ever find; if Huell Howser hasn’t been there already, it’s only a matter of time. After a long driving stint on the I-5 Central Valley wasteland, Little Bird enjoys the Casa de Choo-Choo and Casa de Carousel, while I make a beeline for the Casa de Restrooms and Casa de Coffee.
But I digress. After giving three whoops of joy that I had finally found the great white caribou called Mesquite Flour, I made the cookies. The flour gave them such an odd, interesting flavor that I wasn’t sure whether I liked them or not. So I ate one. Then another. Then another. After eating about 5 giant cookies, I concluded that they were pretty darn good.
To bring this rambling post to a close, I had some extra zucchini and some leftover mesquite flour, so I decided to slightly alter my recipe for zucchini muffins. They turned out well, if I do say so myself. Like the cookies, I had to eat a few just to be certain I liked them. Yup, I did.
If you don’t want to bother getting mesquite flour (and it is pricey), just substitute regular white or whole wheat pastry flour, and they will still be delicious. And as always, remember the cardinal rule of muffin-baking: Do Not Overmix!
Zucchini Mesquite Chocolate Chunk Muffins
1 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (if you don’t have any, just sub in white flour)
1/4 cup mesquite flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
1 cup grated, unpeeled zucchini
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (if you want to go the extra mile, toast the walnuts for more flavor)
3/4 cup chocolate chunks
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift or stir the dry ingredients together in large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and oil, and stir gently into the dry ingredients. It is very important not to overmix, or the muffins will be tough. I usually mix until there’s just a bit of the dry ingredients showing, then I fold in the zucchini, walnuts, and chocolate chunks.
Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin either with muffin liners or with baking spray. Fill the cups 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
Cram your mouth full and sigh with happiness.