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Lemon zucchini muffins are light and lovely

Recipe: No butter, no refined sugar in this morning treat

Lemond zucchini muffins
Just a bit of topping adds interest to these lemon zucchini muffins. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

For all the thousands of muffin recipes out there, not all that many balance nutrition with morning comfort.

I've baked a lot of muffins over the years, always looking for new recipes for whatever produce I have in the house. What I find often leans heavily on butter and sugar, the fresh produce buried under a nut/sugar/butter streusel topping.

2 lemons, 2 zucchini
The key ingredients. I wound up adding a half of another
medium zucchini to reach 2 cups of shreds.

Zucchini is still big here at Produce Management Central. I have a fabulous chocolate zucchini muffin recipe (basically
chocolate zucchini bread baked in muffin tins) but was open to something different. I ran across a lemon zucchini cookie recipe, which made me think there must be versions of lemon zucchini muffins out there. Indeed, even King Arthur Flour has one , although the zucchini plays a very small role in that.

But the recipe that intrigued me most shows up on , a lemon zucchini muffin with a topping that is not streusel: It combines lemon zest, coconut flakes, honey and rolled oats, and not too much of any of that. A bit of coconut oil helps hold the topping together. So I adapted this recipe based on what I had on hand and what I know about making muffins.

Note: The sour cream or yogurt is an important part of the leavening process in this recipe. And nonfat sour cream or yogurt won't work here -- you need a little fat to help hold the muffin together.

The recipe didn't use up all the zucchini in my vegetable drawer, but it does boast whole wheat flour and no refined sugar. I chose whole wheat pastry flour because I had it, but regular will work fine, too. Next time I might mix some coconut into the batter, or maybe some bits of uncrystallized ginger.

In any case, the resulting baked good is light and delicious, perfect for a morning treat alongside a cup of coffee or tea.

Zucchini shreds
Pat the shredded zucchini with a paper towel or kitchen towel
to remove some of the moisture.

Lemon Zucchini Muffins

Adapted from

Make 12 muffins


2 eggs

1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt (Greek or regular, but not fat-free)

1/2 cup agave, honey or maple syrup

2 tablespoons liquid coconut oil or a neutral vegetable oil

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon

2 cups shredded zucchini, about 8 ounces before trimming, lightly patted to remove some moisture

2-1/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour or whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/8 teaspoon salt


1/4 cup rolled or quick oats

1 tablespoon honey or agave or maple syrup

1 tablespoon coconut oil (liquid)

Zest of 1 large lemon

3 generous tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes

topping in bowl
This topping augments, doesn't dominate the muffin. A fork
would work better to combine it than the spoon I used.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with oil spray.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs briefly, then stir in the sour cream or yogurt,  whatever liquid sweetener you're using,  the oil and the lemon zest and juice, until thoroughly blended. Fold in the zucchini shreds.

In a smaller bowl, stir or whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside while you make the topping.

In another bowl, use a fork to stir together the oats, honey (or other liquid sweetener), coconut oil, zest and the coconut flakes.

Now that the topping's ready, finish the batter by gently blending the flour mixture into the egg-zucchini mixture, stirring just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Lumps are OK.

Fill the muffin cups evenly; they'll be quite full. (You'll notice that the baking soda quickly reacts with the lemon juice and sour cream or yogurt, so don't tarry in filling the muffin cups with batter or you'll lose all that wonderful leavening action.)

Two muffins on a plate
Moist and tasty muffins, ready to enjoy.
Sprinkle the topping over the muffins. Bake for 22-25 minutes until the tops are golden brown and the batter tests done. (It should spring back from a light tap.)

Remove pan from oven and allow muffins to cool for at least 5 minutes before removing from pan.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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