The Savory Muffin: Butternut Squash and Feta

Butternut Squash Feta Muffins

Now, when I first came across savory muffins, I was skeptical. Muffins are supposed to be sweet, tender little treats that are acceptable to eat for breakfast, but should probably qualify as dessert.

But when I had to make and photograph these butternut squash-based muffins for work, I sucked up my preconceptions and baked up a batch. And boy were they fantastic.

This recipe is a combination of a Cheesy Butternut Squash Muffin from Food52, and a Pumpkin Feta Muffin from 101 Cookbooks. I liked elements of both, so I combined the two for my batch!

Butternut Squash and Feta Savory Muffins

Butternut Squash Feta Muffins

Makes 12

What You’ll Need:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups baby spinach, chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 teaspoons Grey Poupon mustard
2 eggs
3/4 cup non-fat milk
2 cups flour (I used gluten-free flour from Bobs Red Mill)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper

*Note: I often find when baking with gluten-free flour that I need to add a little extra liquid to get the batter or dough to the right consistency. So, when throwing these together, if the batter looks a little too sticky, don’t be afraid to add a little extra milk — I did (probably about 2 tablespoons). 

What to Do:

Heat the oven to 425F.

On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the diced squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange in a single layer.

Stick in the oven, and roast until tender, about 20-30 minutes. (Be sure to stir ’em up every 5-10 minutes). They should be slightly browned, but not burnt! Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Turn down the oven to 400F, and grease a muffin tin with a bit of EVOO.

In a large bowl, combine 2/3 of the squash, the spinach, parmesan, and 1/2 cup of the feta.

In a small bowl, beat eggs. Add milk and mustard, and stir until combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the larger bowl, and stir.

Add in the flour, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. Gently stir until evenly combined (but not over mixed!)

Spoon the batter into the muffin pan. Top each muffin with the leftover squash and feta, and sprinkle with a generous grind of black pepper.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of  one muffin comes out clean.

Remove, and let cool. Enjoy alongside soup, crumbled over a salad, or as a savory breakfast or snack!

The Secret to “Patchwork” Pesto

I’m going to prove to you right now that you don’t need a recipe, or a grocery list, or even complete consciousness to throw together a not only edible, but totally delicious and healthy dinner.

PestoLet’s just say today was a rough, pretty stressful, high-intensity kind of day. My train ride home was dominated by thoughts of  what I could throw together to both fill my cravings (read: total and complete need) for comfort food, and actually provide my body with necessary nutrients (rather than gorge on cheese and carbs, which is totally what my mind wanted to do).

I opened my fridge only to find  a few sad, lonely items staring back at me: two measly stalks of kale, a small bunch of sand-covered baby spinach, a handful of wilting parsley, some overly-bendable broccoli, and a forgotten half can of white beans.

Fighting my urge to call in the closest delivery, I got to thinking. How could I use up these sad excuses for vegetables and feed myself in under 30 minutes (that’s the time it would take for me to resort to eating my own hand out of sheer hunger)?

Pesto. A very patchwork-ed pesto. Thrown together in a blender with some oil and other assorted lonely pantry items, then baked with some leftover quinoa, white beans, and (of course) cheese. (Because no comforting meal is complete without some melted cheese.) This was my bad day-saving meal.

The point is this: If you’re confident in your abilities and open to new ideas, you can feed yourself well and healthfully anytime you put your mind to it. You buy some healthy items, and you get creative. Chances are if it’s roughly similar in taste (i.e. savory + savory, sweet + sweet), it will taste good together. Once you’ve mastered the art of those simple matches, get even more creative. But, generally, veggies + a protein + some type of grain dressed with some sort of sauce (dressing, hummus, pesto, tomato sauce), it’s going to end up tasting great (especially after a long, hard day). Have some confidence! The worst thing that could happen is that it will taste better next time around.

P.S. Sorry  for the sub-par photos. I’ll step up my game next time around!

Patchwork Pesto

Patchwork Pesto

What You’ll Need:

The Formula:
3 cups greens
3/4 – 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic (raw OR roasted)
1/2 cup anything extra (sun dried tomatoes in oil, walnuts/pine nuts, artichokes in oil, olives are all good ideas!)

What I Used:
1 1/2 cup kale leaves, packed
1 cup baby spinach leaves, packed
1/2 cup fresh flat lead parsley, packed
3/4 – 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic
3 sun dried tomatoes
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese

What to Do:

In the body of a food processor or blender, combine garlic, greens, oil, and extras. Realllly pack in the greens so they’re compact (this will help them blend together, especially if using a blender).

Pulse until smooth. You may need to do some stirring, adding more oil, some tamping down, but it will all be worth it in the end.

Store in the fridge for a week or so, or freeze for up to a few months.

So what do you do with it now? Here are a few ideas:

  • Like I did it. Toss pesto with some white beans, 1/2 cup quinoa, and some steamed broccoli florets. Top with grated cheese, and bake until bubbly! 
  • As pizza sauce! Slather it on. Top with veggies + meat. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake.
  • In quinoa salad (like this one with lots of veggies!)

Citrus Salad with Cherries and Strawberries

Citrus, Cherry, Strawberry Salad

Few things are healthier or easier to prepare than a simple fruit salad.

And one of the things I love most about going home to visit my parents is the consistent supply of fresh fruit (and especially berries) that I can always find in their fridge.

I threw this simple grapefruit, strawberry, and cherry salad together on Christmas Morning 2012 while my fam was patiently awaiting the quiche I had bubbling away in the oven. (That recipe is another post, for another — much more indulgent — time.) Every December, my great-aunt, Polly, sends us a gigantic box of grapefruits from a farm near hear home in Florida, and we chow down on the gigantic pink orbs for at least a month. So, naturally, we need to get creative!

The trick to making this salad something special is to supreme the grapefruit (or whatever citrus fruit you decide to use). Basically, it means cutting out just the good part of the fruit, and discarding all the skin and pith. I know that sounds super fancy, but I promise it’s easy. (If you want a little extra help, check out this video for a tutorial.)

If you don’t have grapefruit, go for orange instead! No strawberries or cherries at the market? Use raspberries, or blueberries, or peaches! The basic recipe you need for this salad is 2 parts citrus + 1 part berry + 1 part something else. Do with that what you please. And enjoy!

Citrus Salad with Cherries and Strawberries

What You’ll Need:

2+ cups grapefruit supremes (from about 2 grapefruits)
1/2 cup grapefruit juice (don’t worry, this comes from the grapefruit pith you’ll have left over!)
1 cup strawberries (or other berries), quartered
1 cup cherries (or other stone fruit), pitted and sliced
1 tablespoon honey or agave (optional)

What to Do:

First, supreme the grapefruits.

Slice the top and bottom off the fruit so you have 2 flat surfaces. Stand the grapefruit up on one of the flat ends, and get your knife ready! Starting from the top of the fruit, slice off the skin in sections so that you’re left with just the inside of the grapefruit.

Now it’s time to take out the sections. Pick up the grapefruit in your non-dominant hand. Hold it so that one side is facing up. You should be able to see with thin slices of membrane that separate each section of the fruit. Pick one of them out. Now, with a sharp knife, carefully slice down one side of that membrane. Rotate, and slice down the inside of the next membrane, freeing the section in between. Drop that section into a serving bowl. Set the leftover juicy pith aside!

Rotate your fruit, and continue until all of the sections (of both of your fruits) are removed.

Now, take the leftover  pith and squeeze over a separate bowl. If using, stir the honey or agave into the juice until dissolved.

Add the strawberries and cherries on top of the grapefruit slices in the serving bowl.

Pour the sweetened grapefruit juice over the fruit mixture, and serve!

Want some other great ideas for how to use up all that citrus? Check out this roundup of 5 Healthy Citrus Recipes on Greatist! 

Coffee Cake for One (in a Mug)

Coffee Cake in a Mug

I have a relentless sweet tooth.

I also have a nasty need for baked goods any time my day goes less perfectly than planned. And, unfortunately (or fortunately?) because I can’t eat gluten, that need can’t be solved by walking in to just any random bakery.

So I can’t decide if stumbling across this recipe for a single-serve cake in a mug was a good thing, or a really really awful one. As long as you have a few simply ingredients laying around, this recipe means you can have a cup cake (literally) anytime you need it.

The best (and worst) part is that you can really make this into any kind of cake you like. Add some cocoa powder for a chocolate version, or mini chocolate chips for a… well… chocolate chip version. (See specific recipes below!)

Hope you enjoy this one as much as I do. Just try not to make it an every-night habit!

Coffee Cake in a Mug

Serves 1

What You’ll Need:

For the Cake:
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 an egg, or 1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons plain greek yogurt
1/8 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1/4 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For the Topping:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon rolled oats
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Optional Additions:
mini chocolate chips
chopped pecans or walnuts
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon cardamom (to make it a chai cake!)
2-3 raspberries

What to Do:

Put 1 tablespoon butter in a microwaveable mug, and heat for 10-15 seconds to soften.

Stir in the 2 tablespoons of sugar until creamy, about 30 seconds.

Add egg and stir until completely combined.

Add yogurt and vanilla extract, and stir again.

Add flour, baking powder, and cinnamon, and stir until smooth. (If you want to add chocolate chips or nuts, add those now, too!)

Now it’s time to make the crumbly topping: In a separate small dish (like a ramekin), combine the butter, flour, oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Use your fingers to mush all the ingredients together so you end up with a crumbly topping.

Now, stir half of the topping into the cake batter. Then, sprinkle the second half on top.

Microwave oh high for 1-2 minutes, or until the cake is set.

Let cool for 2-3 minutes, and enjoy!

Sunday Soup // Red Lentil Coconut-Curry with Spinach

One of my favorite things to do every weekend is cook up a big batch of something delicious to eat for dinner throughout the week. Sometimes it’s tomato sauce, sometimes a pasta or rice bake, but there’s something special about that recipe being soup. Whether it’s French lentil, meaty chili, or something curry-based (like this one!), having my little yellow Dutch oven on the stove top with soup bubbling away makes me feel so cozy.

Red Lentil Coconut-Curry Soup

The best part about soup, though, is its versatility. I never measure — always estimate, and adjust the amounts of spices based on taste (or just what happens to accidentally fall out of the container…).

I got the idea for this coconut red lentil curry soup from this recipe at Sweet Potato Chronicles. For my version, I doubled the ginger and garlic, added a bit more curry, and decided to puree the soup before adding the spinach ribbons for a creamier texture. Enjoy!

A word of advice: Yes, this ingredient list looks intimidatingly long. But I promise, this soup is actually easy to assemble, and took me less than an hour from first chop to first bite.

Red Lentil Coconut-Curry Soup with Spinach

Red Lentil Coconut-Curry SoupServes 6-8

What You’ll Need: 

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon curry powder
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1/3 cup tomato paste
5 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
1 can coconut milk
2 cups red lentils
4 cups fresh baby spinach, washed and dried
1 lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper, to taste

What to Do:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a big pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.

Add diced onions and carrots, and sautée until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic, ginger, and spices. Stir to combine, and allow it to cook for another 3 minutes (or until fragrant).

Add the tomato paste and stir until evenly distributed.

Pour in the stock, water, and coconut milk. Stir to evenly distribute.

Add lentils. Give everything a good stir and let it simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.

Now it’s time to smooth everything out. Remove the pot from the heat and plug in your immersion blender. Blend until completely smooth. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, than blend the soup until smooth in batches in a normal blender.)

Add the lemon juice and taste. Season with enough salt and pepper to satisfy your taste buds.

Time for the greens! Prep your spinach leaves for slicing: Roll a handful of the spinach leaves into a tight bundle. The best way to do this is to lay each leaf on top of each other, and roll up into a tight “cigar.” Next, slice crosswise to make super-thin spinach ribbons.

Separate the spinach ribbons, and add to the pot. Stir until the leaves just wilt.

*Note: If you’d rather, leave out the spinach and top the bowl with spinach ribbons just before serving.