Chicken and Spinach in Cream Sauce

I will never forget the first time I had mushrooms and cream sauce: the tang of white wine tempered the silken nature of the heavy cream, creating a luxurious blanket for the simmering creminis. It’s hard to argue with the allure of heavy cream, even when we are trying to be eco- or animal-conscious.

I don’t buy it often, and my fridge almost always has milk alternatives in it such as oat or almond–but every now and then, ya just want something so creamy it’s basically liquid butter.

This flavorful sauce beautifully coats tender poached chicken breasts and cooks fresh spinach in a matter of minutes. Grounded in earthy greens and brightened by white wine and a splash of lemon juice, this truly is a decadent, simple dish that makes enjoying dinner a no-brainer. Plus, it comes together in under an hour and utilizes only one skillet, which makes clean up a breeze.

While I would be hard pressed to label this a “healthy” dish, there are certain benefits to eating lean protein like chicken breasts (low cholesterol, high protein) and spinach.

Health Benefits of Spinach

Aside from containing vital nutrients like calcium, potassium and magnesium, spinach is also high in vitamin A and folate.

Vitamin A has been linked to eyesight, skin, and hair health, as well as reduced risk of certain cancers like cervical, lung, and bladder cancers.

Vitamin A also helps to fight acne and is an essential micronutrient necessary in collagen production, responsible for keeping us looking young and healthy, as well as boosting bone health and nutrient absorption.

Folate plays a key role in red blood cell formation and general cell health and function.

Isn’t it fun to know that, on a cellular level, our foods are working to keep the machinations of our amazing bodies in order?

What’s even more fun is knowing that folate is a nutrient that requires fat in order to be absorbed by the body, thus making this rich cream sauce the perfect vehicle for your leafy greens. How’s that for a justification? 😉

Simple ingredients means minimal effort, but it also often means crystal-clear flavor that is easier to balance.

What do I mean by “balance?”

Fat vs. acid is a great place to start. In this dish, the cream is obviously the major contributor in the “fat” column, while white wine plays heavily into the “acid.” The reason these two ingredients come together in this straightforward sauce is the fact that they play off each other nicely, making for a surprisingly complex, savory relationship. Add some garlic for pungency and shallot for character and you’ve got an excellent backdrop for whatever you like, whether that be chicken, fish, mushrooms, or vegetables.

Part of what keeps the chicken in this recipe so moist is the fact that it poaches after it sears. This has the double benefit of cooking off some of the alcohol in the white wine and further thickening the sauce.

Add some parsley for color and a squeeze of lemon for a burst of freshness. What this dish lacks in color it makes up for in flavor. Serve with rice or over a bed of fresh spinach, and enjoy!

Chicken and Spinach in Cream Sauce

This simple dish comes together in minutes and makes and excellent date-night or special week-end meal!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Course dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, French, Intuitive, traditional
Servings 2 people

Equipment

  • cast iron pan or heavy bottomed skillet

Ingredients
  

  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • salt, for seasoning
  • freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 2 small shallots or one large
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, packed
  • fresh parsley, to taste
  • fresh lemon wedges, to taste

Instructions
 

  • Season chicken breasts to taste with salt and pepper. Coat (dredge) in flour and set aside.
  • Grate shallot(s) and press garlic and set aside.
  • Heat oil over medium-high in a cast iron or heavy bottomed skillet. Sear chicken until golden brown on both sides, about 8 minutes each turn. The chicken should read 165°F on an instant read thermometer. If using high-quality, organic chicken, feel free to heat chicken to the "chef's temperature" of 155°F, if you are comfortable. Keep in mind the chicken will continue to poach in the white wine in the following steps.
  • Reduce heat to medium and add butter, garlic, and shallots. Cook, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and simmer about 10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half. Flip the chicken breasts after 5 minutes, then remove using tongs. Place on a cutting board and cover with tin foil, allowing the meat to rest for several minutes while you finish the sauce.
  • Once the wine mixture has reduced significantly, add the cream and cook until the sauce can coat the back of a spoon, between 5 and 10 minutes. Once the sauce is complete, turn off the heat and add fresh spinach, stirring until incorporated and fully cooked, about 1 minute.
  • Cut chicken against the grain into 1/2" strips. Plate with spinach and cream sauce, ideally over a bed of rice. Serve hot with fresh parsley and lemon wedges.
Keyword chicken and spinach, chicken florentine, chicken in cream sauce, eat your greens, feel good food, feel good food plan, intuitive chef, intuitive cook, intuitive cooking, intuitive cuisine, intuitive eater, intuitive eating, intuitive eats, intuitive food plan, intuitive recipe, one dish recipes, one pan recipes, one-pot recipes, simple recipe, simple recipes, spinach

Savory Bay Bread Pudding

One of the best parts about buying a loaf of bread is knowing that whatever doesn’t make the cut for your sandwich or piece of toast has the potential to end up as bread pudding.

Bread pudding has never been the glamorous girl at the dance, but she’s got a heart of gold and can break it down with some funky moves. Perhaps criminally underrated, bread pudding really is an amazing vehicle for flavor.

This holiday season, I decided to make savory bread pudding in lieu of stuffing a bird. This decision was based on economical and food safety reasons; I happened to have stale bread which was moments from molding and, and am also a little wary of stuffing a bready sponge into the cavity of a bacteria-ridden carcass. (Edit: I have heard stuffing successfully crafted this way is unparalleled–maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to face it…)

Maybe you’ve heard of bay leaf ice cream, if you are an adventurous eater. If you have, bay flavored bread pudding might not be too far of a leap. Stick with me. Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb by sticking to tradition. Sometimes we must take bold leaps if we are to forge ahead. Right?

the custard base is flavored with salt, bay leaves, and whole peppercorns.

It’s delightfully simple: chop everything and put it in a bowl, make your custard, and let it soak for at least 15 minutes.

the leek is optional, but I added it for a boost of alum flavor

Throw it all in a pan and bake.

bay pairs great with potatoes, turkey, cranberry sauce…!

Savory Bay Bread Pudding

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, traditional

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves dried
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 5 cups bread, chopped into 1" chunks
  • 2 Tbs butter, plus more for pan
  • 1 leek, washed and cut into 1/4" chunks

Instructions
 

  • Butter a 9×5" bread pan and set aside. Place milk, salt, peppercorns, and bay leaves in a saucepan and heat over medium. When the mixture is just beginning to boil, turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
  • While the milk mixture is cooling, cut or rip bread into one inch chunks and place in a large mixing bowl. Cut leeks and add to the bowl.
  • When the milk is at room temp, whisk in the beaten eggs. Pour this mixture over the bread chunks and let sit 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour soaked bread chunks into the baking pan. Dot the surface of the bread mixture with small dabs of butter, and bake in the oven 20-30 minutes, until toasty and golden on top. Serve as a Thanksgiving side or with a dollop of creme fraiche.
Keyword bay, bay leaf, bread pudding, leftovers, savory, savory bay bread pudding, savory bread pudding, stale bread, stuffing, thanksgiving, thanksgiving sides, use what you have

Samin Nosrat’s Buttermilk Roast Chicken

I’m sure we can all agree that the circumstances surrounding this holiday are less than ideal. It’s challenging for families to come together, connect, and share food due to travel limitations. It seems most folks are celebrating on a smaller scale than usual, reducing their menu for the day if they’re even observing the holiday at all–at least, this is what I’ve observed on my food-saturated social media feed.

If you, too, are cooking for two, or four, or even just yourself–you may consider a roast chicken as your centerpiece rather than larger fowl.

Of all the chickens I have ever roasted in my life (and I love roast chicken!) this buttermilk chicken from Samin Nosrat is the juiciest, most chicken-y roast chicken I have ever had the sublime pleasure of sinking my teeth into. It really is about quality of ingredients because there are so few: take care to use a fine grain salt, like a sea salt or kosher salt, good buttermilk with few additives (or make your own like I do!) and a chicken that you can wager, with reasonable certainty, lived a good life. I don’t know if it’s all in my head, but I feel pretty certain that one can taste the difference in quality meat.

If you treat this recipe with the respect it deserves by investing in quality ingredients, you will be rewarded with beautiful results. For me, this was a life-changing, eureka moment, holy-smokes-this-is-it recipe for roast chicken. (You should probably buy yourself a copy of Salt Fat Acid Heat if you haven’t already.)

I like to keep the ingredients fairly simple in accordance with the original recipe. The lemon, herbs, and half an onion featured are optional, but delicious, additions.

this chicken marinated for two days in the fridge, though samin recommends 24 hours. i have found that two days does not negatively impact the chicken at all by drying it out w salt exposure–in fact, two days is kind of my sweet spot for this recipe, taking care to rotate the chicken every 8-12 hours, or whenever it crosses my mind: whichever comes first.

After I drained the chicken of buttermilk, I tucked the thyme under the skin near the breast meat, and stuffed the cavity with half of a small onion, a small bundle of sage, and a squeezed lemon half. The legs get tied together with twine.

samin instructs us to remove excess buttermilk from the skin by “scraping it off”; i have never found this to be a necessary step. if you hold the chicken so the cavity is facing over the sink or garbage can and wait patiently for a few seconds, the extra moisture should wick away. any remaining milk solids contributed to that delicious, delicious browning on the skin–and tell me, why would one want to prevent this from happening??

The first time I tried this recipe, I was slightly daunted by the recipes–shall we say, specific–roasting instructions. However, I followed them to a T and, I have to say the results made a believer out of me. Just try it. It will work. Trust me. (If you can’t trust me, trust Samin.)

i removed the chicken as soon as the drumstick juices ran clear and the breast meat clocked in at 155°F–for best browning results, use a shallow cast iron to house your chicken.

After you pick clean the carcass with the most delicious chicken you’ve had, maybe ever, save the bones/carcass to make stock. It’s soup season, after all…

Buttermilk Roast Chicken with Aromatics

Based on Samin Nosrat's recipe in NYT Cooking.
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Resting Time 10 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, keto, paleo, traditional

Equipment

  • cast iron skillet

Ingredients
  

  • 1 4 lb chicken, preferably organic
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • fine grain salt
  • 1/2 onion, peeled, optional
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced into the cavity and shoved inside, optional
  • fresh sage, optional
  • fresh thyme, optional

Instructions
 

  • One to two days before you cook the chicken, generously season it with salt, and rub into the skin. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Do not be shocked if you go through 2-3 Tablespoons, bearing in mind what is not absorbed by the bird initially will dissolve into the buttermilk as it marinates.
  • If using any aromatics like fresh herbs, onion, lemon, garlic, etc, tuck under the skin or in the cavity of the chicken now.
  • Place chicken into a large zip top bag and seal the buttermilk inside. Place in the fridge for 24-48 hours, turning the bag whenever you remember; ideally this is every 8-12 hours.
  • An hour and 15 minutes before you plan to cook the chicken, remove it from the fridge to thaw. After an hour has passed, preheat the oven to 425°F and take care your rack is centered in your oven.
  • Drain the chicken of the buttermilk over a sink or garbage can. When the chicken is completely drained, place it in a shallow cast iron pan. Slide the cast iron to the very back of the stove and into one corner of the oven, so that legs are pointing in the corner. Bake this way for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes has passed, reduced oven heat to 400°F, and continue roasting 10 more minutes. Then, rotate chicken so that it is in the other backmost corner, with legs facing in the opposite corner. Bake for another 30 minutes, or until the chicken is a beautiful brown on top, juices pricked from where the drumstick meets the carcass run clear, or until the breast meat clocks in at 155°F-165°F.
  • If chicken is getting too crispy as you wait for it to reach temperature, feel free to cover the top with foil.
  • Let bird rest for 10 minutes before carving. Enjoy.
Keyword autumn eats, autumn feel good, buttermilk, chicken, chicken roast, fall eats, fall feel good, feel good food plan, healthy delicious, healthy doesn’t mean boring, healthy recipes, intuitive cook, intuitive cuisine, intuitive eater, intuitive eating, intuitive recipe, organic, roast chicken, seasonal, seasonal recipe

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Boeuf Bourguignon!

Having made traditional boeuf bourguignon via Julia Child’s recipe, when I encountered this version on the New York Times’ cooking page, I was all in: there’s that slow-cooked beef that you crave with traditional boeuf bourguignon, ample wine added to the roux, mushrooms, and onions–but the recipe is dramatically simplified, and spiced very sparingly. I also found the wine flavor in the traditional version to be overpowering, whereas in this recipe, the positive flavors in the wine come through, but only just. In short, the beef is really taking center stage, as beef is wont to do.

I think all meat-eaters can agree, there’s nothing like slow-cooked meat. When meat is falling-off-the-bone tender, packed full of flavor and juicy, it’s terribly hard to resist. (So why would we? The answer is, we don’t.)

Of course, we can’t eat meat like this for every meal. Aside from being labor- and attention-intensive, meat like this isn’t always the most holistically nutritious thing we can put in our bodies for dinner. I wouldn’t say it’s bad for us, per se. But a head of broccoli probably has a little more to offer in the “nutrients” department…(I’m sure there are some meat fans out there ready to argue with me. Shower me in your meat stats, you carnivores!)

Additionally, and I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, reader, but it’s not the best for the environment. Unless you buy locally-sourced, organic, grass-fed-and-finished beef (costly and often not quite as convenient as the grocery store standard), it’s a little challenging to negate your carbon footprint on some delicious, delicious beef brisket.

I will say I could not find organic brisket at the grocery store. If you really want “guilt free” brisket, this may be an occasion to stop by your local artisan butcher! Support local, eat local, reduce the carbon footprint. Rock on with your bad self. Rock on!!

In summary, a dish like this really calls for an occasion. In this instance, my sister and I ate this together before I take off to move across the country; this, of course, made it taste all the better.

This is one of the most comforting dishes I have prepared in a long, long time. Warming spices, slow-cooked beef, and mashed potatoes–I didn’t even make a vegetable to go along with dinner! It was all meat and potatoes, all dinner long. Who is complaining about this? I ask you!

Of course, if it’s not your bag to eat just meat and potatoes, add some green stuff on a separate plate. The world is your oyster! (Whatever that means.) But tuck in for a cozy, candlelit dinner with someone you love, maybe with a bottle of Beaujolais or maybe with some Amber O’Douls, and feast on the fruits of this 4.5 hour dinner. The wait is definitely worth it. Trust me.

i was really pleased with this beef broth i found at the grocery store–it’s made with grass-fed beef bones and tastes great. i even bought some of their lemongrass and ginger beef bone broth, which makes a great medium for a simple soup. don’t forget to heat low and slow, so the broth doesn’t boil and ruin all that wonderful collagen!

I seasoned the brisket with salt and pepper, trimmed a small layer of the fat cap, and cut it into cubes to be browned in vegetable oil in my cast iron.

Meanwhile, I sautéed chopped onions and mushrooms in rendered beef fat in my Le Creuset, then added spices, thyme, wine, broth, and the browned beef…

i’ve really been pushing the le creuset to its maximum volume capacity lately; somehow, this reduced with minimal spillage. thank you, guardian cooking angel

About 3 1/2 hours over low heat later, aaaand:

cue “heart eyes” emoji

Yes. Yes to all of this!! I was stuffed after one serving, but still wanted more…leftovers just got a lot more exciting.

yep, the only green on my plate came from the ceramic itself, and chives. oh, and those are cheesy mashed potatoes, in case you’re wondering

[This recipe adapted from Pierre Franey of the New York Times.]

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Boeuf Bourguignon!

Serves 6-8

  • 4 lbs beef brisket, trimmed to 1/4” fat cap and cut into 1 ½” cubes
  • Reserved brisket fat, for rendering
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 c chopped onions (about two medium onions)
  • 5 heads of garlic, pressed
  • 1 lb fresh mushrooms, preferably bella
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¼ c all-purpose flour
  • 1 bottle Beaujolais wine (Beaujolais Villages is a great low-cost bottle)
  • 1 c low-sodium beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole allspice

Generously season brisket with salt and pepper, and rub spices into the meat. Heat vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add the meat cubes in a single layer, with the fat side down first to render the fat. This will take several batches. Drain browned meat cubes on a plate lined with paper towels. (The point here is not to cook the meat all the way through, but to sear it on the outside.) 

While meat is draining, heat reserved beef fat in a heavy bottomed cooking pot, like a Le Creuset or cast iron kettle, until you have several tablespoons of liquid fat in the bottom of the pan. Toss fat chunks or feed to a lucky dog.

Add onions, garlic, and mushrooms to the first cast iron pan used to cook the meat cubes, and sautée about 5 minutes, or until onions become translucent. In the second pan with the rendered beef fat, add the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring well, for about 1 minute.

Add wine, beef stock, bay leaf, cloves, allspice, thyme, sauteed onions, garlic and mushrooms, and beef cubes to the second pan. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat and cook, covered, over very low heat for about 3 and ½ hours, or until the meat is tender and falls apart when gently squeezed with tongs.

Remove bay leaf and serve with mashed potatoes, noodles, or rice. Red wine or dark ales are wonderful compliments to this dish.

Salted Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups

So there’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is, it’s Halloween candy season. The bad news is, it’s Halloween candy season. I don’t know about you, but my boyfriend and I have been having a really difficult time resisting some of our favorite candy bars when we head to the grocery store. Our pantry is currently hosting several half-eaten bags of the stuff.

This isn’t the worst thing we could do for ourselves. (After all, everything in moderation, including moderation, right?) But it also isn’t the best thing either…

So I’ve created a compromise: healthy fat, homemade, easily digested, “gourmet makes” style chocolate nut butter cups. Who’s complaining about this? Absolutely no one, that’s who.

Between you and me, reader, we like to get a little bit fancy. We are worldly and distinguished enough to know the difference between curated, fair trade cacao powder and the market brand stuff. However, because our heads are not too far up our derrières, we still appreciate the occasional gas station peanut butter cup. That’s our sweet spot. Right?

So in an effort to stay true to my sweet tooth roots while honoring how far I’ve come as an eater, I bought organic almond butter, but the kind that has coconut oil added into it in order to make it extra creamy. Mara Natha almond butter is the way to go for this recipe, and I say that as an experienced almond-product-eater. But as always, follow your heart.

First, I mixed together melted coconut oil, cocoa powder, agave and salt. (Honey or sugar would work here too, or your favorite sweetener.) I poured a few tablespoons of this solution into muffin liners and placed these in the freezer for a few minutes. After this, I dolloped in a few healthy spoonfuls of almond butter…

creamy nut butter makes all the difference for these sweet treats

Then I poured more chocolate mixture over the top and put this in the freezer to chill some more!

almost done!

Thirty minutes after you begin, you’ll end up with a treat even Claire Saffitz would be proud to serve!

bet you can’t eat just one

Salted Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups

Makes 12 cups

  • 1 c melted coconut oil
  • ¾ c cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • About 1 c creamy almond butter
  • Coarse sea salt for topping

Line a muffin tin with paper liners and clear out some level space in the freezer.

Whisk together coconut oil, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl and transfer to a large liquid measuring cup. Pour about two tablespoons of chocolate mixture into each muffin liner and transfer to the freezer for about 5 minutes. Set leftover chocolate solution aside.

When the chocolate is mostly solid, pull the muffin tin from the freezer and dollop one to two teaspoons of almond butter over the top of each chocolate disk. Pour the rest of the chocolate mixture over the top of the almond butter so that it is entirely covered. 

Return to the freezer for about 5 minutes; when the nut butter cups are thickened but not completely solid, pull from the freezer and sprinkle coarse salt over the top. Return to the freezer for another 510 minutes, or until set. Enjoy as is. Keeps well in fridge or freezer!

Basic Tomato Soup with Herb Puree

What better way to kick off soup season than with that old fan favorite, tomato?

A truly great sendoff for even the most overripe of tomatoes, this vibrant soup is the perfect backdrop for cream, yogurt, grilled cheese, crackers, croutons, etc…but can also stand on its own.

Stewed, reduced tomatoes become a medium of sweet, tangy umami. Add some sautéed onions, some fat, and some time: and boom, you’ve got a delicious–and beautifully simple–soup.

these poblanos needed to get used up, so i threw them into the soup to stew before pulverizing everything in the blender.
broiled on high for about 5 minutes, these poblanos were easy to stem, seed, and chop

I cooked the tomatoes with sautéed onions and roasted poblanos in olive oil until some of the tomato juice had reduced, about 30 minutes.

i kept the heat between medium and medium-low to avoid scorching the tomatoes

After pureeing the cooked veggies in a blender and tasting to season with salt and pepper, I decided to get to work on the herb puree.

This puree became sort of a catchall for herbs and greens I already had on hand, so many substitutions or omissions could be made in terms of the greenery–after all, not everyone saves their carrot tops for just such an occasion!

ingredients: basil, parsley, carrot tops, fresh garlic, capers, an anchovy, olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice and salt

This puree integrates beautifully into this simple soup and offers an aromatic freshness to the buxom flavor of stewed tomatoes. Needless to say, I ate this bowl of hot soup straight from the blender within minutes.

the herb puree to tomato soup ratio is entirely up to the eater–fun!

Basic Tomato Soup with Herb Puree

Serves 4

Soup

  • 10-12 medium tomatoes, stemmed and cut into 1” chunks
  • 3 medium poblano peppers
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Tbs + 4 Tbs olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Herb Puree

  • 1 bunch parsley, stems removed
  • 1 bunch carrot tops
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1 Tbs capers, drained
  • 1 anchovy filet
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ c quality olive oil + more as needed
  • Salt, to taste

Roll poblano peppers in first measurement of oil and place on a baking sheet. Broil in the oven on high until skins are blistered and charred, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until cool.

Add second measurement of olive oil to a heavy bottomed pot with salt, pepper, and onions. Sautee until onions over medium heat until they are translucent and tender, 10-15 minutes. Add cut tomatoes and turn heat to medium low, stirring occasionally to prevent the tomatoes for sticking. You are looking for some of the liquid to be reduced, about 30 minutes.

While tomatoes are stewing, remove the stem and seeds from the roasted poblanos. Dice the peppers and add to the cooking tomatoes.

After 30 minutes has elapsed and soup is of desirable thickness, puree everything in a blender or food processor until smooth. 

Set soup aside in a large, preheated serving bowl. Combine all of the ingredients into the rinsed out blender or food processor and puree until smooth. You may require more than ½ c olive oil to achieve this, depending on the size of the herb bundles.

Serve the soup hot with a generous scoop of herb puree, or yogurt, or both. Croutons or grilled cheese are advisable. 

Simple Chickpea Ricotta Pasta

Are there things in your pantry that you tend to hoard? How about cans and dry goods that sit on the shelf for months at a time?

For me, one of those items is pasta. It’s hard for me to say “no” to a new experience, especially one costing only a few bucks–so when I pass by a new shape or brand of imported pasta in the grocery store, it usually ends up in the cart.

When the pandemic first started, like many people, I stocked up on nonperishable foods. This, coupled with a frankly obsessive amount of time spent scrolling through the New York Times’ cooking app, yielded some fruitful results, alerting me to recipes which I will no doubt be riffing off of for years to come. This is one of those recipes.

This dish is simple, so if one makes too many substitutions in terms of ingredients, it’s essentially a new dish–that being said, it could be made gluten-free by subbing wheat-alternative noodles. I have yet to come across a vegan ricotta substitution out there, unless one were to spring for some vegan cream cheese and whip it up with a dash of sugar.

But if you are a full-time or even part-time dairy eater, I say go for it and eat the dang ricotta! It’s a truly remarkable, natural compliment to pasta of any sort.

This recipe is great for easy weeknight dinner, or for a meat-free meal. Makes for an excellent lunch, also.

one item i’ve tucked away: squid ink pasta…

Cook the pasta in heavily salted water until al dente. While that’s boiling, “bloom” the red pepper flakes along with a few cloves of garlic in a skillet with olive oil. Once the oil starts to change color and become fragrant, add drained chickpeas and sauté for a few minutes, until chickpeas are coated in spiced oil and warmed through.

Add cooked noodles, ricotta, some reserved pasta water, and a splash of quality olive oil to the pan and mix.

I added some cherry tomatoes–the last of the season!

Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and torn basil, adding salt and pepper to taste.

this made for a very satiating fall lunch

Simple Chickpea Ricotta Pasta

Serves 2

  • 8 oz pasta, or enough for two servings
  • 3 Tbs olive oil for sauteeing, plus 1 Tbs for final assembly
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/3 c ricotta cheese
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • ½ small lemon, for final assembly
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn, for final assembly
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, 8-12 minutes. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water and drain. 

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the first measurement of olive oil and red pepper flakes until the pepper has “bloomed” in the olive oil, about 2 minutes. (Oil should change color and become fragrant.) Add smashed garlic cloves and lower heat to medium, cooking just until they begin to lose their pearly white look, about 3 minutes. Add drained chickpeas and halved tomatoes and stir, coating everything in oil over heat for 3-5 minutes, or until the garlic has changed from white to translucent beige. 

Change heat to low and add drained pasta, ricotta, a squeeze of the half lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Add remaining 1 Tbs olive oil and stir everything together.

Plate with torn basil leaves and serve immediately. Pairs excellent with a buttery white wine or plain bubbly water, whichever you prefer.

Molasses Blueberry Bran Muffins

Well, this week certainly put me through my paces. (Oh, you too? TGIF.)

It’s a good thing I have whole wheat bran muffins for breakfast…I mean, it’s a really good thing.

What’s even sweeter is the fact that they were made with blueberries harvested with a dear friend at a “secret” blueberry farm. And to cinch it all together: these muffins have no refined sugar, but taste like you’re sort of getting away with something when you bite into them before 9 am.

What’s not to love about that?

If you’ve been following with the blog, you have probably gathered that I pretty much always have sweets in the house. When I’m halfway through one baked treat, it’s time to dream up the next one. (As I pen this, there is half of a loaf of bread pudding perched in my fridge, screaming to be eaten…I must remind myself, “adults” eat dinner then dessert…)

So it came as no surprise that I felt compelled (and I absolutely mean compelled) to try my hand at bran muffins this week, like, STAT. I guess I just couldn’t handle looking at the bag of Bob’s Red Mill wheat bran which has been staring me in the face for the last month, hinting ever so subtly that I should, ahem, make it into something delicious and vaguely nutritious already!

Thus, I plucked it from the shelf and did a little internet rummaging. (“How can I recreate those totally spectacular blueberry bran muffins featured at that coffee roaster in Portland?”)

With just a little digging, I found an approximation that brought me one step closer to that goal.

Adapted from this recipe from Food52, this muffin batter creates the perfect backdrop for whatever seasonal fruit, seeds, shredded vegetables or coconut you wish to spotlight. It’s simple to put together, with little mess. They taste like a treat but they’re sort of, like, a super food or something…at least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

that bright orange stuff is mashed baked sweet potato, but applesauce would work great here too!

Like many recipes in baking, the ingredients were placed in “wet” and “dry” bowls respectively, making for simple assembly and easy clean up.

here i am infusing these muffins with the last of summer’s sun…let steep for a few minutes in direct light for best results 🙂

Mix it all together…

i mean, that color just says “nutrient-packed”

Another beautiful aspect of this recipe is how perfectly it fills a 12-part cupcake pan. Less mess and cleanup, and you have 12 perfect muffins at the end of the process–I didn’t weigh or measure at any point during the batter scooping!

pro tip: butter or oil the lip of each “muffin hole” well so that your muffins crisp up nicely during the bake and pop out of the tin easily after

Then bake! And voila:

so delicious, and not so bad for your gut/waistline

For those of you who like to nerd out a little bit about food, part of what’s so great about these muffins is the amount of fiber paired with the natural sugar. As you probably know, your liver processes sugar as well as alcohol. When you consume an excessive amount of sugar in a short amount of time, it “panics” and transforms the sugar into fat rather than processing it as fuel for the body. I guess it’s kind of like hitting the snooze button when your alarm goes off.

Eating fiber with your sugar reduces the chance of the snooze button being hit; it slows down the process of digestion and gives your liver a chance to keep up with your carbohydrates. This is one of the many, many reasons that we love fresh produce.

So, not only are you getting antioxidants from the honey and blueberries and minerals from the molasses, but you’re getting our friend fiber from the whole wheat flour, wheat bran, berries, and coconut to boot. Are you psyched yet??

Molasses Blueberry Bran Muffins

Note: You can add whatever seasonal fruit is desirable, coconut flakes, dates, hemp hearts, toasted seeds or nuts…you can even sub applesauce for mashed baked sweet potato with a few tablespoons of water. It’s all about texture and natural sweetness with these muffins! 

Ingredients

  • butter or oil for muffin tin (optional)
  • 1 c wheat bran
  • 1 ½ c whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ c blueberries
  • ½ c walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
  • ¼ c shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 c milk
  • ½ c molasses
  • 3 Tbs honey
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ c applesauce (or scant ½ c mashed, cooked sweet potato with 3 Tbs water)
  • 2 Tbs melted coconut oil

Preheat oven to 400°F and butter or oil a muffin tin or line with paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together bran, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Stir in fruit, nuts, coconut, and any other desired accoutrements to the flour mixture.

In a medium bowl, mix together milk, molasses, honey, eggs, applesauce or sweet potato mash, and oil.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Divide the batter evenly between the 12 cups. (They will feel perilously full, but this is how they should look!)

Bake for 15-18 minutes–no longer than 20 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean when inserted into the muffin. Enjoy!