Trash Muffins (aka How to Use-Up Your Leftover Produce)
Whole Wheat Chocolate Swirl Mini Muffins with Butternut Squash & Apples
Despite the very long-winded subtitle of this recipe, this is technically better known at our house as “Trash Muffins.”
I make a lot of Trash Muffins. Trash Muffins happen when there’s something in the produce drawer that needs to get used up and used up ASAP. Maybe the garden exploded with too much zucchini all at once. Maybe I forgot I already had a whole bag of carrots and bought more. Maybe my children, for some inexplicable reason, chose to ignore the apples or pears or peaches that they usually destroy in a day and now won’t go near them because ew! Brown spots!
Or maybe, like this week, I bought a package of pre-cut butternut squash with a vague plan to make some soup, and then…did not actually make soup. And now that package of squash has seen better, fresher days.
TRASH MUFFINS TO THE RESCUE.
This particular combination (butternut squash + apples) is one of my (three) kids’ favorites. I add a puree of hot steamed butternut squash and apples to a basic whole wheat muffin recipe (sweetened with honey or maple syrup vs. sugar).
Then at the last minute, I add a scant half-cup of chocolate chips to the still-warm batter. The chips melt and swirl through, so every mini muffin is packed with chocolate flavor and a load of fall fruits and vegetables. The apples and squash give them a zucchini-bread-level of moistness so you can use full whole wheat flour without worrying about them turning out too dry.
If you don’t want to add the chocolate chips, don’t! These muffins are great (and plenty sweet) on their own, especially for breakfast. Enjoy them right out of the oven, for two or three days in a container on the counter, or bag them up and keep them in freezer for months. We pack the still-frozen muffins in lunchboxes the night before, and thanks to their wee size they defrost in time for lunch.
How-to-Make Whole Wheat Chocolate Swirl Mini Muffins with Butternut Squash & Apples
1 butternut squash, peeled & cubed (or one package of precut squash, about 22 oz. or so)
2 medium red apples (Gala or similar), cubed but unpeeled
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour*
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon**
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
½ honey or maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter, melted (or neutral-tasting vegetable oil of your choice)
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup chocolate chips (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350. Generously grease two mini muffin pans with baking spray or shortening.
- Bring a couple inches of water to a boil. Place the cubed squash and apples in a steamer basket and steam until very soft, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking power and salt in a large bowl.
- Transfer the squash and apples to a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. (You can leave it chunky if you prefer…I go for a smooth puree because even my most fruit-crazy child will pick whole pieces of anything out of baked goods.) Measure out two cups.***
- Make a well in the bottom of the dry ingredients and add the eggs, honey or syrup, butter and vanilla. Gently whisk the wet ingredients to break up the egg yolks.
- Add the squash and apple mixture and use a spatula to stir until just barely combined.
- Add the chocolate chips (if using) and give the batter just a few more stirs to incorporate and the chips start melting slightly.****
- Spoon the batter into the prepared pans. I never bother with liners and have never had an issue with sticking unless I’ve half-assed greasing the pan. I usually fill to the top, which means I’m often a few muffins short of filling the second pan completely, but YMMV.
- Bake for 18-22 minutes, until the tops of the muffins look set and a pastry tester comes out clean.
- Let cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing and/or eating.
*This is not a finicky or delicate recipe, so feel free to use whatever flour you prefer or simply have on hand. I’ve used white, whole wheat, and all-purpose, and don’t see any reason why a gluten-free swap wouldn’t work here as well.
**Honestly, go nuts here if you want. A little allspice, nutmeg or ginger would be lovely, as would pumpkin pie spice.
***You can freeze whatever is left for making more muffins, or portion it out in an ice cube tray for baby food or for mini fruit-and-veggie boosts for smoothies, soups, applesauce or other baked goods.
****If you (or your kids) prefer more intact chocolate chips, simply cool down the squash and apple mixture in the fridge before adding to the batter.
Got something sitting in your produce drawer that you need to use up ASAP and aren’t sure what to do with? Did your child inexplicably decide to reject some previously approved food the day after you bought it in bulk? Are you guilty of always buying vegetables for salads you never get around to making? There’s a Trash Muffin for that! (Or a cookie or bread or freezer sauce or SOMETHING for that, I promise.) Email [email protected] with your ingredients and I’ll come up with a kid-and-grown-up-approved recipe for them.