Morning Glory Muffins

So, I started working at a new job last week. A really dreamy job. The kind of job that makes all the years of college and grad school feel worthwhile, like life is finally coming together, and it just feels so good to be there! Over the weekend I channeled my excitement and set out to charm my new co-workers the best way I know: with baked goods. The thing is, most of my co-workers are dietitians… so I really had to bring my “A” game!

I wasn’t really familiar with Morning Glory muffins until recently, but I like the idea of a really busy treat loaded with a variety of healthy ingredients to keep things interesting. There are a million variations for add-ins; you could really use whatever nuts and dried fruit you have in the pantry, but I thought the traditional carrot shreds would be complimented nicely by dates, pecans and coconut. Some recipes include grated apple, which sounds good too, but I decided to replace it with crushed pineapple to further play on the carrot-cake flavors.

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Mom’s Chicken Cacciatore

After spending a weekend with the family, I felt like my return to apartment life could benefit from some real home cooking. Time for a Mom Recipe, you know? I don’t know if Spring has sprung where you are yet, but even here in southern California the nights are chilly enough to encourage stewy, braise-y dinners. So readers, today you’re lucky enough to learn about one of our most popular family recipes: my mom’s chicken cacciatore.

Cacciatore is Italian for ‘hunter,’ and as I understand it, the idea behind the dish is that hunters are able to pick up wild mushrooms while out in the forest. I don’t claim any real Italian authenticity, but the thing that sets this recipe apart is the sauce. Ohhh, the sauce… It’s tomato-based, but doesn’t really even taste like a tomato sauce. Some kind of magic alchemy goes on between the wine, broth and aromatics that yields something complex, herbaceous, and completely revelatory.

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Baja Fish Burritos

Let’s talk. Today’s phenomenon? Food tasting better when someone else cooks it for you. There are exceptions, of course, but as the star Food Captain of my household, there’s something special about enjoying a meal that was crafted with love by hands that were not my own. There are a lot of factors at play, but I contend that one of the biggest draws is the potential for cooking revelations. Basically, I’m a fan of my cooking, but I know all of my own tricks. I experiment with new things, but every move I make is informed by my tastes and experience. When we’re lucky enough to be at another cook’s mercy, we get to experience food through their skills, their preferences, their history.

This recipe comes from a friend who is a Really Good Cook, who made me the best fish burrito of my life thus far. If you know how many burritos I eat, you’ll know how serious this is (hint: this is pretty serious.)

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Super Greens Rice

It’s not every day that I stop to consider whether a side of brown rice should be made even healthier. Tell me, am I crazy? In my defense, my real intention was just to make our grains tastier. But when I decided to give them the pesto treatment, I couldn’t deny that I was upgrading the nutrition too. Instead of just a carby side, I ended up with a well-rounded, nutrient-dense food. A vehicle for healthy fats, leafy greens, and – obviously – more flavor! If it didn’t deliver in the flavor department, I hope you realize by now that I wouldn’t be telling you to make this.

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Banana Jam

You’re looking at a luxurious breakfast, fragrant with flavors of the tropics. If you want to close your eyes and feel transported to a sunny veranda, I recommend this recipe as a starting point. You can almost feel the ocean breeze, and while it’s distinctly tropical, I can’t tell you if you’re in the Caribbean, southeast Asia, or on a Pacific island… that’s up to your imagination, and the flavors you choose to pair with it.

In addition to offering a vacation in a jar, this is also a recipe for those times when your bananas are browning faster than you can handle. I didn’t know that banana jam was even a thing until a friend from my RD program enlightened me, and I am so glad she did. If I end up with overripe bananas, I don’t often muster up the enthusiasm to bake banana bread. I usually just toss the neglected fruits in a freezer bag for smoothies, but I love having this easy option for a little something special.

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Berry + Clementine Smoothie

It’s that time of year again, when our grocers’ produce sections pile up with bags and crates of juicy little clementines. In the past I had never fully jumped on the mini-mandarin bandwagon, but this season… I’m in deep. Maybe I’m homesick for Florida, or maybe my body wants vitamin C, but every time I open the fridge I feel the siren song of the bright orange bag. They’re so easy to eat out of hand, but I felt compelled to give them some special attention and try something different… to mix it up, if you will? (smoothie humor… yeah, sorry.)

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Cheesy Baked Spaghetti Squash

I used to be a little wary of spaghetti squash. Its “diet food” reputation made me hesitate to view it as something to enjoy eating. Fortunately my desire to eat everything overcame my skepticism, because as it turns out, this squash can be really tasty. I started cooking it this way ages ago, on recommendation of one of the earliest posts of Edible Perspective, and never looked back.

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Garlic Kale & Feta Bagels

Before I made nutrition my livelihood, I wouldn’t think twice about grabbing a giant sesame-coated carbohydrate monstrosity on my way to a morning lecture. These days I still eat them on occasion (a life without bagels is no life for me), but dietitian thoughts creep in. I can’t help but think of the inflammatory properties of flour, the insulin spike caused by the high glycemic load signalling to the body’s fat cells to plump up, and the anticipation that the refined starch will digest in a flash, leaving me crashing before lunch. It’s funny because there are plenty of RD-dubious foods I eat without a care, in interest of moderation. Maybe it’s because bagels are breakfast, and I feel pressure to start the day off right. A wise person described breakfast as the “gateway drug” for the rest of the day’s eating… how apt is that!? I definitely find that my morning meal sets the stage for the day, and I love fueling up on a breakfast that makes me feel good. So I set out to see if I could achieve that experience while, well… still getting to eat a bagel.

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Bittersweet Chocolate Almond Pudding

I can understand the argument that Valentine’s Day is arbitrary and consumerized… but seriously, if anything is worthy of celebration, it’s love. We tend to take a pretty low-maintenance approach around here; he plants me flowers, I make him an extra-nice dinner, and then we eat chocolate pudding. It’s silly, but it’s our go-to Valentine’s dessert. It’s super simple, but still feels special enough for a celebration. It’s rich, but not overly heavy after the preceding indulgent meal. And as a bonus, its prepared ahead of time and chilled until you’re ready for it, so it’s accommodating to whatever spontaneity your night offers.

This year, I felt compelled to try something new, maybe add a little sophistication to my old standby recipe. I experimented with an addition of almond flavor and espresso, and I have to say, it felt pretty fancy. It morphed chocolate pudding’s childhood charm into a deeper, more complex, grown-up indulgence. Of course I couldn’t just stop there, and had to further gild the lily by topping the bowl with lightly sweetened whipped cream, dark chocolate and crunchy almonds… I regret nothing.

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