As most of you already know, we were blasted with an arctic storm this week. Schools and businesses all over our area were closed and state emergencies were declared. As a result, I had a snow day on Wednesday, and while it was lovely to have a day off midweek, I paid a hefty price the day before….
I am off from work today in honor of MLK day, and I’m celebrating with muffins. Fluffy, spicy, and nutty muffins.
I adore pistachios. They are one of the best nuts, in my opinion. I usually just eat them plain, simply roasted and salted…but lately, I’ve been trying to come up with ways to incorporate them into meals. Pistachio ice cream, by the way, doesn’t count as a meal…in some people’s books. I, however, could eat it every day for dinner and never get sick of it. It’s one of those ice cream flavors I didn’t come to appreciate until I was an adult. As a kid, it was rainbow sherbet, mint chocolate chip, and cookie dough. All the way.
I also adore Chai tea. It’s SUCH a comforting combo of flavors. I thought it would pair perfectly with the nuttiness of pistachios. Spicy and nutty. Yes.
I am normally an absolutely-no-nuts-in-my-baked-goods person. I mean, there is NOTHING worse than nuts in brownies or cookies. Blech. They just don’t belong. I don’t like walnuts or pecans anywhere near my banana muffins, either. So, these muffins are a bit of a departure for me. I have to say, the pistachios are not at all obnoxious in these muffins. They just work so perfectly with the spices of Chai and they are actually pretty tender as far as nuts go. I was pleasantly surprised.
These muffins bake up so fluffy and moist, they almost remind me of a cupcake. They are the perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of coffee or tea. Which is exactly how I’m going to enjoy them this morning. I suggest you do the same.
Pistachio Chai Muffins (makes 12 muffins)
For the Muffins:
1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 Chai blend tea bags, opened
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup pistachios, finely chopped, DIVIDED
1 stick of butter, softened
⅔ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk
For the Glaze:
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup powdered sugar
For the Muffins:
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Grease a muffin pan or line the cups with paper liners.
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, tea, flax, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon zest, and ½ cup of the chopped pistachios in a large bowl.
Using a stand or hand mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract.
Alternately add in the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, mixing after each addition. Do not overmix the batter.
Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle the remaining ½ cup of pistachios over the top. Place the muffins in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 375°F. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes and then remove to cool on a wire rack.
For the Glaze:
Whisk together the lemon juice and sugar until smooth. Lightly drizzle the glaze over the cooled muffins.
I feel like I’m copping out here today. Just a little bit.
This recipe is so insanely easy…it almost doesn’t count as a recipe. Bake a potato, make a stuffing, and then place said stuffing into said baked potato. I’m definitely not going to win any awards for complexity here.
And that’s OK….because who needs more complexity in life today? We all have enough on our plates (figuratively speaking)…so what LITERALLY goes onto our plates should be simple. Especially during a busy work week like the ones I’ve been having since the new year began. I love meals like this because (A) they can be prepared completely ahead, (B) they are healthy, and most importantly, (C) they are easy!
I’ve been on a sweet potato kick recently. Can’t get enough of them. I might be kind of weird, though… you guys can clear this up for me. Is it strange that I prefer them WITHOUT brown sugar and cinnamon? I think they get a little TOO sweet that way. I like them a bit more savory. I can’t be the only one. Right?
Don’t get me wrong. I love a sweet potato casserole at Thanksgiving. Sweet potato muffins. Yes. Sweet potato pie. Sure. But give me a baked sweet potato and stuff it with something salty…that’s going to be the one I always choose. This “recipe” came about in the height of my sweet potato obsession. I wanted to make a few for weeknight dinners, but wasn’t sure how to jazz them up without making them overly caloric.
Then it occurred to me…stuff ‘em with beans. Good ol’ beans. Love ‘em. The bean salad is bright and flavorful, but its savory notes play perfectly off the sweetness of the tater.
Plus, look at that color! Gorgeous. Pretty food = yummy food. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
4 medium sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 (15-oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 425°F. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork in several places.
Drizzle the outside of the potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the potatoes in a baking dish and bake until tender all the way to the center, about 1 hour (cooking time will depend on the size of your potatoes – check after 45 minutes).
Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and cook for a couple minutes.
Add the bell pepper and cook for another 5 minutes or until tender.
Add the beans, tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar and cook for just a couple minutes or until everything is warmed through. Remove from heat and toss in the fresh basil.
When just cool enough to handle, cut each sweet potato lengthwise, press open to make a well in the center and spoon the bean mixture into the well. Serve warm.
When I went to buy the ingredients for this dish, I thought I grabbed a pork tenderloin off the shelf. That’s the cut of meat I always use with this marinade (as do my parents) and what I’ve used for this specific dish in the past.
It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that I had grabbed a pork LOIN instead. After a mini temper tantrum (witnessed only by my dogs), I decided to make the best of it. I proceeded with the marinade as usual but knew I had to adjust my cooking method. Usually, I just grill pork tenderloin after it has been marinating for a few hours. It always comes out perfectly moist and tender. Pork loin, however, is not something I have made very often, and I was a bit intimidated by it. I realize there is not a HUGE difference between the two, but I feared I would mishandle the new-to-me cut of pork and would end up with something dry and flavorless. I ended up roasting it instead (which was probably the best choice anyway given the abysmal weather conditions outside). The result was fantastic! I managed to get a crispy crust on the outside of the roast without losing the amazing Asian flavors of the marinade or sacrificing the juicy tenderness of the meat itself. Hooray!
The marinade is one of my mom’s recipes…with the slightest twist. The original does not call for Sriracha, but I love the stuff and wanted to see how it would work with an extra spicy “punch.” It worked, alright. Delicious, spicy, and nutty. Absolute perfection. The marinated pork tenderloin I grew up with was reserved for special occasions. Along with my mom’s killer marinade for flank steak, it was up there in the rotation of family favs. And with good reason. It’s a cinch to throw together (most of the ingredients are probably in your pantry), and it yields a super flavorful cut of meat.
I love stir-fried noodles of any kind, and my husband and I LOVE the flavor of wasabi (like, to the point where it feels like someone kicked you in the nose)…so the wasabi noodles kinda just came together in my head naturally. The cucumber is nice addition because it’s fresh and cooling – it plays off the other flavors perfectly. I toyed around with some Asian flavors and ingredients, and I found that the combo listed below is what worked best for our tastes. The best thing about dishes like this is that they are completely customizable. Don’t love wasabi? Use less of it. Not a huge fan of sesame oil? Omit it. Want different veggies in your stir fry? Sure, throw them in! Do what works for you. There’s no right or wrong involved here…
Except if you buy the wrong type of meat. Hah. But I’m proof that even THAT isn’t really a wrong! See? Totally customizable.
Warm Wasabi Noodles with Asian Marinated Pork Loin (makes 6 servings)
For the Pork:
1 (2-lb) pork loin
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup canola oil
½ cup sugar
1 jigger vodka
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated
For the Noodles:
1 lb whole-wheat spaghetti or buckwheat noodles (soba)
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons prepared wasabi paste
1 English cucumber, sliced
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Chopped scallions, for garnish
For the Pork:
Combine the soy sauce, oil, sugar, vodka, sesame oil, hot sauce, scallions, garlic, and ginger in a large resealable bag. Add the pork, submerge in the marinade, and refrigerate for 6-8 hours.
Remove the pork from the fridge and allow it to sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the marinade into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes. It should thicken and cook down slightly (this also makes it safe to use again).
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and place on a roasting rack in a shallow baking dish. Drizzle the pork lightly with canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes (this will help the outside get a golden brown crust), then brush liberally with the boiled marinade, and reduce the oven temperature to 300°F. Roast for another 30 minutes, brushing with the marinade a couple times, or until the internal temperature reaches 135°F. Remove from oven, tent with tin foil, and allow the roast to rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing. The internal temperature of the roast should go up to around 140-145°F during this time. Thinly slice and keep warm (tent with foil) until you are ready to serve.
For the Noodles:
While the pork is roasting/resting, cook the noodles until el dente in salted boiling water. Drain completely and set aside.
Once the pork is rested and sliced, heat the oil in a large skillet or wok and when hot, add the garlic. Cook for 30 seconds and then add the noodles, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar. Stir-fry everything for 1 minute. Whisk the wasabi paste with a couple tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Remove the pan from the heat, add the wasabi mixture and a drizzle of sesame oil (add amounts that work for your taste – as I say above, we LOVE wasabi, so I really went for it). Add in the sliced cucumber and half of the scallions and sesame seeds. Toss the noodles to coat and taste for seasonings (adjust as needed).
To serve, put the warm noodles in serving bowls, top with the thinly sliced pork, and then garnish everything with the remaining scallions and toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately while warm.