Thursday, September 4, 2014

Zucchini Bread & Muffin

In America prosperity can be summed up in three little words: wealth, health and happiness. It is the American way, the land of abundance. This is what our world deems, "prosperous living."
And it isn't just the worldly who have bought into this belief. Christians have capitalized on this principle with vengeance. Ministries have flourished, churches have boomed and countless sermons have been preached on what is known as the "prosperity gospel."
The trouble with this concept is that is has nothing to do with the gospel and completely misses the true meaning of prosperity as defined by the Lord himself. True prosperity isn't measured in dollars and cents. It isn't even measured in sickness or health. Not even the word "happiness" comes into play when judging prosperity on God's terms.
Biblical prosperity is prosperous contentment, not a prosperity of stuff or fuzzy feelings.
There is no greater scripture to define prosperous contentment than Philippians 4:11, "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Paul, the author of that verse, was not in perfect health. He had a thorn in his flesh that caused him agony. He was not wealthy by any means. He worked and supported himself financially and gave generously believing that it is "more blessed to give than to receive." 
And what about happiness? Was Paul abundantly "happy"? I can't speak for Paul but I can quote his words. He was "content." He didn't say he was over the moon ecstatic or that he loved being in chains or loved having a thorn in his flesh. He simply said that no matter his circumstances, he learned to be content in them all - the good, the bad and the ugly.

In the land of overflowing bounty and abundance known as America this isn't the gospel we long to hear. The prosperity gospel according to the world has a much sweeter ring to it. Money, health, good vibrations. Sign me up! Let's face it, who wouldn't want to be happy and wealthy and healthy? Those are all desirable life characteristics and they sound like the plot for a life on easy street. 
But they aren't Biblical.
The Bible never promises a life of ease. There is no promise of perfect health or abundant wealth. In fact, the Bible warns that if we follow God we should expect some tough trials up ahead. Could those trials include sickness? I'd say so. How about financial hardship? It certainly doesn't exclude the possibility. 
Not only are trials to be expected but financial prosperity isn't even to be expected. If we have much we are to give much. How wealthy can you be when you give it all away? 

Instead of looking to stuff, health, happiness and the almighty dollar to define prosperity the Bible instructs us to be prosperously content no matter what our lot in life, what our bank account or what illness may plague our physical bodies. None of those things exclude us from the blessing of prosperity. A lack of funds is not a lack of blessing. Illness is not an exclusion from prosperity. "Happiness" isn't God's way of defining a full and abundant life.
Contentment is being filled to the overflowing with the Holy Spirit. Contentment is being complete in Christ. Contentment is finding satisfaction and peace by being securely planted in the center of God's will. 
Prosperity isn't limited to American soil. It can be found in a hut in Africa, the crowded streets of Hong Kong, a sterile hospital room and every place in between. God's prosperity isn't limited to a geographic location or certain socio-economic population. Prosperity is for all because Christ is for all. 

So you're probably wondering what this whole prosperity talk has to do with baking. Just stick with me, I promise it all ties together. 
Today I baked zucchini bread and muffins. It is the beginning of September and that means that at farmer's markets all over the state buckets of zucchinis are still in abundant supply. Strawberries are long gone. There are no more blueberries to speak of and corn is even on its way out but zucchini are still readily available. Let's just say there is a prosperous amount of zucchini.
Now zucchini aren't the most prized of farmer's market vegetables. Most of us gravitate towards the luscious fruit, crisp greens and any vegetable with a bright color. Little tomatoes are beloved. Green beans are even more desirable when they are good and fresh. But zucchini are everywhere and we farmers market shoppers becomes almost immune to their existence. 
Until the end of the market season comes and we still long to buy something local and fresh. Then we turn back to the abundant supply of zucchini still overflowing in buckets all around the farmer's stand. We are once again reminded that there is goodness and deliciousness in this simple and plentiful vegetable. It may not be the first thing when people think of "delicious treat" but zucchini can be turned into something truly scrumptious when lovingly and carefully baked into a bread, cake or muffin. And if you're like me, a crisp, unadorned zucchini can even provide a refreshing snack when munched on raw or thrown into a salad.
For today's purposes I decided to bake up this blessed vegetable into a classic muffin and bread treat. I clicked around at lots of different recipes and ended up with a hybrid of a few. I used primary the most popular recipe for zucchini bread on All Recipes but made some tweaks.
If you'd like to use up the prosperous amount of zucchini filling your local farmer's market I suggest this recipe. It turned out beautifully!

Zucchini bread and muffins
adapted from:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini (don't drain or strain!)
3/4 cup pecans

1.Grease a bread pan and 12 muffin tins. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
2.Combine flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
3.Beat (by hand) eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well (by hand). Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans, filling muffin tins about 1/2-3/4 of way full.
4.Bake muffins for about 20 minutes and bread for about 50 minutes or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.

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