Loaded Morning Glory Muffins

IMG_3396Another good name for these muffins would be Everything-but-the-Kitchen-Sink Muffins. I’m not quite sure who came up with that phrase to describe recipes that are full of add-ins, but I just like the sound of it. I suppose the phrase could have been everything-but-the-oven-door or everything-but-the-moldy-cheese, but someone chose “kitchen sink.” I can’t say it makes much sense, but people get what you’re talking about and it’s a lot more fun to say than “muffins filled with a whole bunch of stuff.” However, just in case someone out there read the title and got confused and pictured a batch of muffins made with dirty sink-water or something, I stuck with Loaded Morning Glory Muffins, which also has a nice ring to it. Very glorious-sounding, I’d say. And so concludes the end of my unnecessary thought process.

These muffins are based off of the infamous Morning Glory muffin…you know, those bakery muffins that are the size of your head and lumpy and brownish and full of peculiar objects? The the kind of muffin that your mom always chose and offered you a bite of, leading you to politely shriek “no, thank you!” while stuffing your face with your favorite blueberry-cream cheese muffin? You know those ones?

IMG_3393Needless to say, Morning Glory Muffins never much appealed to me throughout my childhood but now I can’t get enough! They’re packed full of carrots, zucchini, shredded coconut, dried cranberries, chopped apple, applesauce, flaxseed, and nuts (although I left those out in my version for no good reason other than not having any). I’ve seen some recipes that include diced pineapple as well, but I figured I had to stop stirring things in at some point. Not to mention that I didn’t have any pineapple, either.

Basically, my Morning Glory Muffins are a meal in themselves. The carrot, zucchini, apple, oil, and buttermilk come together to keep the muffins super soft and moist, and every bite is loaded with texture. They aren’t exactly health food, but compared to many muffins (ahem, blueberry-cream cheese muffins of my past) they’re not too shabby. I mean, as long as whole wheat flour, heart-healthy fats, fruit, and even vegetables are in there you can claim to be eating a healthy snack. I’ll totally back you up. 🙂IMG_3403

Loaded Morning Glory Muffins

Makes 18-20 standard-sized muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3 large eggs (I used 2 eggs + 1 “flax egg” made w/ 1 Tbs ground flaxseed mixed with 3 Tbs water and left to sit for 5 minutes)

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/3 cup buttermilk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 medium apple, finely diced

2 cups shredded carrots (I used a mix of carrots and zucchini)

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or line muffin tins and set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the flours, sugars, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In a smaller bowl whisk together the eggs (and flaxseed mixture, if using), oil, applesauce, buttermilk, and vanilla until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until combined.

Fold in the chopped apple, shredded carrots/zucchini, coconut, cranberries, and nuts. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling 3/4 way. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let the muffins cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then carefully move to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

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Thai-Style Chicken Quinoa Salad

IMG_6194I figure it’s about time for some “real food” to appear on this here blog of mine. I mean, there are only so many delicious cookies, cakes, muffins, and bars that one can consume before a desperate longing for wholesome, nutritious meals sets in. Hah! I kid. But seriously, I really do cook actual non-dessert-type food. It’s just that I rarely have the motivation to haul out all my picture-taking paraphernalia and set up a photo shoot right when dinner is ready to be served. And after dinner, whatever I’ve cooked has almost always been devoured. And if there are leftovers, they often aren’t the most photogenic. Or I’m too tired. Or I have somewhere to be. Or I’m just not feeling it. I could throw out excuses all day, but it doesn’t really matter because this time I finally pulled myself together and managed to actually snap photos of this ridiculously delicious Thai Chicken Quinoa Salad, the star of tonight’s dinner. It was just too good not to document.

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My family members are all big-time lovers of quinoa, and it often appears in the form of side dishes, salads, and even entrees in our house. Whether it’s Mango & Black Bean Quinoa Salad, Black Bean & Corn Quinoa Salad, or a simple side to this Spanish Chicken and Kidney Beans, we love our quinoa. It’s healthy, cheap, quick-cooking, gluten-free, a complete protein, and is the perfect “base” for multiple dishes.

Though I’ve tried so many great quinoa recipes that I could never pick a favorite, this Thai Chicken Quinoa Salad definitely comes out near the tip-top. Cubed chicken, crunchy veggies, edamame, dry-roasted peanuts, and fresh cilantro are all loaded into the quinoa and tossed with an amazing Thai-inspired dressing. The dressing has a hint of spice that’s rounded out with a bit of sweetness and is packed with a multitude of flavors from lime juice, coconut milk, peanut butter, garlic, and ginger. The myriad of tastes and textures all come together into a one-dish meal that will leave everyone fighting for leftovers. I had to restrain myself from taking a third helping when I made this for dinner, and everyone in my family loved it. It’s hard not to!

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Thai-Style Chicken Quinoa Salad

Makes 6 servings

For the salad:

1 & 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup water

2 cups cooked, cubed chicken (about 1 pound, or 2 medium chicken breasts)

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup diced bell pepper

1/2 cup shelled edamame

1/2 cup diced carrots

1/2 cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

For the dressing:

1/4 cup sweet chili sauce

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 1 small lime)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons canned coconut milk (light is fine)

1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed

2 teaspoons creamy peanut butter

2 garlic cloves, minced

Pinch of ground ginger

Directions:

Combine the quinoa, chicken broth, and water in a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender.

While the quinoa is cooking, whisk together all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Prepare the rest of the salad ingredients if you haven’t already.

Transfer the cooked quinoa to a large bowl and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Then pour the dressing over the quinoa and stir to combine. Add in the chicken, scallions, bell pepper, edamame, carrots, peanuts, and cilantro. Mix well. Serve the salad warm, chilled, or at room temperature.

(Recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, originally adapted from How Sweet Eats)

Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup with Spinach

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Despite it being mid-May, recent weather around here has been more of a throwback to winter than a peek to the summer months ahead. This weekend has been one of those gray, drizzly, what-can-you-expect-it’s-the-Pacific-Northwest type of weekends, which means digging my windbreaker back out from the depths of my closet where I’d hoped it would stay until fall, having no opportunity to work on my (slightly pathetic) tan, and spending two long days either inside trying to find something to do or outside wishing the sun would make even a brief appearance. The only thing such a bleak weekend seems to be good for is soup-making, of course!

During the chilly fall and winter months, my family eats soup, stew, or chili at least once a week, often more. There’s something so comforting about a large pot simmering on the stove, ready to warm everyone up. Even though it’s spring, I figured I’d take advantage of the ugly weather to justify one last soup day before it gets too hot. Not that I’d mind sacrificing my favorite winter meal for a couple months of nice weather!

This Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup with Spinach is always a good choice. Delicious, filling, healthy, and packed with protein and veggies, it makes for a perfect dinner, especially when paired with a crusty loaf of bread. This meatless dish is full of tender vegetables and garlic; hearty lentils; fragrant thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf; and sweet tomatoes. Note that the recipe makes a LARGE pot of soup, about 10 servings, so plan on lots of tasty leftovers. The soup freezes well, too, and makes for an easy thaw-and-serve dinner.

I guess there is a silver lining to dreary, overcast days. With a bowl of this soup, it’s hard not to be a happy camper!

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Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup with Spinach

Serves 8-10

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium white or yellow onion, diced

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

1 celery stalk, diced

2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 & 1/2 cups brown lentils

60 ounces (4 15-oz cans) vegetable broth

2 cups water

2 15-oz cans diced tomatoes

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried rosemary

2 dried bay leaves

1/4 tsp black pepper (more to taste)

1 tsp sea salt (more to taste)

2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, torn

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add in the onion and garlic and sauté for 3-5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add in the chopped carrot, celery, and sweet potatoes and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, or until vegetables are beginning to soften. Add in the lentils, broth, water, and diced tomatoes; stir well. Stir in the thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, salt, and pepper.

Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce to low and let the soup simmer for 35-40 minutes, or until lentils and sweet potatoes are tender. Turn off the heat and immediately stir in the fresh spinach until wilted. Taste for salt and pepper, remove bay leaves, and serve.

(Recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)