Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

Ah, weekends. I truly enjoy my job, but I still relish the no-obligations charm of the weekend. With a few exceptions, this Saturday morning was top of the charts. Reading, coffee, toast, cool autumn air, yesterday’s Diane Rehm show, the scent of pumpkin muffins in the oven… what’s not to love? (Cleaning Luna’s mucus-puke off the sofa, but let’s not get into that.)

I don’t know about you, but when I cook a pot of grains, I always make extra. Brown rice, quinoa, whatever—it’s a sure thing that we’ll use it up, whether it’s in a lazy lunch like a burrito bowl or a slightly more time-consuming meal like Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup. So when I prepped the quinoa for last week’s Nutty Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash, I made extra. Instead of incorporating it into a savory dinner dish, though, I decided to try putting quinoa into muffins. And I’m really glad I did. I love the slightly nutty taste and the not-quite-crunchy texture it adds, not to mention the nutrition boost!

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup wheat germ (or more flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Dash cloves
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • Heaping 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (or more coconut sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa

Preheat the oven to 350˚ and prepare a dozen-muffin tin using liners or a light spray of oil.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Stir in the wheat germ, if using.

In a small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (not including the quinoa) and the sugar(s) until well combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet. Using a plastic spatula or a wooden spoon, stir gently to combine, but don’t overmix. Fold in the quinoa, then add the batter to the prepared muffin tin with a spoon. Fill each well about 3/4 full. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before eating.

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Fair warning: If you have a major sweet tooth, you might want to add more coconut or brown sugar to these babies. Although my younger self would probably recoil in disgust at this development, I find myself less drawn to sugary-sweet baked goods these days. (With a few notable exceptions!) Especially when those baked goods might well constitute my breakfast. So these muffins, which are spicy and quinoa-y and not so sweet, are my perfect fall breakfast snack. I think they could only be more perfect if I’d used spelt or whole-wheat pastry flour, but alas—we have neither in the house right now, and S took the car this morning, and I was too lazy to walk over to the grocery store. Ah, Saturday.

What’s your ideal Saturday breakfast? What else should I put quinoa in?!

Nutty Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash

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On the drive home from work this evening, S asked me what I was planning to make for the last day of Vegan MoFo.

“Something with that Delicata squash that’s been sitting around for a week,” I said. “Maybe stuffed squash. Any ideas?”

He barely had to think about the question before answering.

“Nuts! And dried cranberries!”

Nuts and dried cranberries it is. For the last day of September, I put together a dinner that’s pretty to look at and fun to eat. Quinoa gets an autumnal makeover as the filling for the melt-in-your-mouth Delicata squash, and the spice combo evokes all the best fall flavors. A hint of cinnamon and maple syrup adds a touch of sweetness, and the toasted nuts provide a little crunch. The filling would make an excellent gluten-free Thanksgiving stuffing alternative on its own! As written, though, this recipe is a surprisingly satisfying and filling dinner.

Nutty Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash

Nutty Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash
Serves two

  • 1/2-1 tablespoon Earth Balance
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • A couple grinds of fresh pepper
  • Dash cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted nuts (I used a mix of hazelnuts and walnuts)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 Delicata squash, split lengthwise, with the seeds and stringy bits scooped out
  • A little extra Earth Balance or coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 425˚ and fill an 8″ x 8″ (or 9″ x 9″, depending on the size of your squash) baking pan with a thin layer of water.

Melt the Earth Balance in a small pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and celery and cook for about 5 minutes until they start to soften. Add the spices and maple syrup and stir so that the onion and celery are coated. Cook for another 3 minutes or so, then remove from heat.

In a large bowl, mix together the quinoa, toasted nuts, dried cranberries, and the onion and celery mixture. Scoop into the cored Delicata squash and pack tightly. The filling can come up over the edge a little bit, but not too far. You’ll have extra, but that’s okay. Dot the filling with a little coconut oil or Earth Balance. Place the squash halves in the prepared pan, add the remaining filling to a small baking dish, and place on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until the Delicata squash is browned on top and is pierced easily with a fork. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before eating. Drizzle with a little extra maple syrup if you’re feeling indulgent!

Nutty Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash

Besides being my favorite squash for its ease of preparation (you can eat the skin, so no need to remove it!) and its creamy texture, Delicata is rich in vitamin A and vitamin C. Quinoa, of course, is a phenomenally healthy little seed, and it’s really what gives this dish its nutritional punch. One serving (one filled half squash) provides 24 grams of protein, 41% of your RDV of iron, and 11% of your RDV of calcium. That’s a pretty darn strong finish to my “Where do you get your protein?!” month, wouldn’t you say?

And what a month it’s been! I’ve really enjoyed myself. Sure, I had a few lazy days, but overall I’m proud of the recipes I created and the consistency with which I was able to put them together. And, for the first time in a while, I’m feeling inspired to keep creating recipes and to continue blogging. Hold me to it if I don’t!

And with that, I bid this year’s Vegan Month of Food a truly fond farewell.

What’s your favorite squash? If you participated in Vegan MoFo, how did it go?

MoFo Monday

LVV MoFo 2014 mainOh boy! S and I spent most of today driving back to Maryland from Rhode Island. It was an easy-peasy drive and I have no complaints, but by the time we’d picked up Moria from S’s mom’s house and finally got home, I was sleepy! In other words, not in any shape to mess around in the kitchen. (Plus, we need to go grocery shopping…)

So today, on the last Monday of Vegan MoFo, I’m basically extending Lazy Sunday to share some other bloggers’ recent recipes that have caught my eye (and tickled my tummy). These are not, strictly speaking, in line with my healthy-ish MoFo theme, but… it’s the end of the month and you deserve to treat yoself. If you make any of these, report back!

What MoFo recipes are calling to you today?

Lazy Sunday: A Bunch More Recipes You Should Totally Make

LVV MoFo 2014 mainIt’s the last Sunday of Vegan MoFo! Instead of sharing recipes focused on a specific nutrient, here are a few generally healthy options pulled from my Pinterest!

What recipes appeal to you today?

Saturday Eats

LVV MoFo 2014 mainHello from Rhode Island! For the first time since we moved to Maryland, S and I had a halfway decent drive up to RI; it took a little over eight hours (with two potty stops for Luna) and had relatively little traffic. We arrived around 11:30 last night, which meant I had to wait until today to meet baby Charlie. He was, as you might expect, worth the wait.

We spent most of the day with my parents, my sister, and her family today. Mom made delicious banana muffins for breakfast, and for lunch we all shared a tray of pizza strips, spinach calzones, and Del’s lemonade… pretty much the quintessential Rhode Island summer lunch! For dinner, we boiled up some fresh local corn (so sweet!) and had it alongside veggie burgers on whole-wheat buns with all the fixings.

One of the best little perks of visiting my parents is not having to cook! Therefore, I have no idea how I did today, nutritionally speaking. I was too busy cuddling a five-day-old baby to count. ;)

Pumpkin Spice Baked Oatmeal Bars

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I’m writing this post on Thursday night and I’m so very antsy! On Friday afternoon, S and I will be taking off for Rhode Island to meet baby Charlie. I don’t know how I’ll get through the work day tomorrow; I’m so excited! And then we’ll be in the car for eight hours or so… I wish we could fast-forward to the minute I get to wrap my arms around the teeny-tiny newest member of my family. But alas, time marches onward steadily! At least S and I will be armed with snacks galore so we don’t need to make a stop for dinner. He’s picking up fruit and a bag of Earth Balance white cheddar popcorn (SO GOOD), and I’ve made a sweet treat to keep us energized.

Pumpkin Spice Baked Oatmeal Bars

Pumpkin Spice Baked Oatmeal Bars
Makes eight bars

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar (or pure maple syrup)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Dash cloves

Preheat the oven to 350˚. Spray an 8″ x 8″ baking pan or line with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan, heat the coconut sugar, coconut oil, molasses, agave nectar, and vanilla extract over low. Stir to combine as the oil melts. Once all ingredients are well mixed, turn off the heat and stir in the pumpkin puree.

In a large bowl, add all the dry ingredients and mix. Pour in the wet ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon or plastic spatula until the oats are coated and all ingredients are well mixed. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan and press down evenly.

Bake for about 30 minutes until the oats begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing with a sharp knife. If you’re patient, let them cool before eating. If not, they might be a little crumbly!

Inspired by this recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod.

Pumpkin Spice Baked Oatmeal Bars

Baked oatmeal bars strike again! I can’t help it; I just love this easy, on-the-go method of enjoying oatmeal. These bars are just sweet enough for me, but if you like a sweeter breakfast, you could substitute maple syrup for the blackstrap molasses. But then, of course, you’d lose out on the stellar benefits of my beloved blackstrap! Each bar gives you 13% of your RDV of iron, about 6 grams of protein, substantial fiber, and nearly your entire day’s requirement of vitamin A. Not a bad way to keep your tummy full on a drive up the east coast!

What are your favorite road trip snacks?

Kale and White Bean Soup

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Years and years before kale was thrust into the spotlight by foodies in search of the next food superstar, my mama started making a kale soup that my entire family loved. I thought of that soup today, the first chilly day of the year, and knew I needed to make it. Kale soup, of course, is nothing new, and I do feel silly posting a recipe for something that’s as simple as simple can be. But if you have yet to discover the combination of kale and white beans, this soup is for you.

Kale and White Bean Soup

Kale and White Bean Soup
Serves six

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, diced
  • 3 medium-sized yellow potatoes, diced (about 1/4″ cubes)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • Dash cloves
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 10-12 oz. curly kale, de-stemmed and torn into small pieces
  • 2 cups navy beans (or other white beans)
  • 4-5 cups water (or additional vegetable broth)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-low heat and add the garlic. Sauté for about 30 seconds, then add the onion, celery, and carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the potatoes and spices and give everything a big stir. Add the vegetable broth and turn up the heat to medium. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Add the water or additional broth Add a big scoop of kale and stir it in; after it wilts a bit, add another big scoop. Repeat until you’ve added all the kale. (Or you can just add it all in at once if your stockpot is big enough!). Add the beans and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the kale is as tender as you like it. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve!

Kale and White Bean Soup

My version of Mom’s kale soup uses a spice blend similar to that you’d find in chorizo, giving it a smoky, spicy flavor. But you can switch up the spices based your tastes. Like most soups, this one is endlessly versatile. You can also add and remove many of the ancillary ingredients. No celery? No problem. Feel like adding some bulk? Throw in some orzo or quinoa. In a rush? Use Trader Joe’s bagged kale; just pull off the larger stem bits. You could even reduce the spices and add some soyrizo.

Mom’s kale soup is, unsurprisingly, ridiculously healthy. A serving gives you 17 grams of protein, 18% of your recommended daily value of calcium, and 29% of your RDV of iron. You’ll also get lots of vitamin A and vitamin C. Thanks, Mom!

What’s your favorite soup?